A 3-0 lead with about 10 minutes to go in a Game 7 on the road, and any coach or fan will tell you that your odds of advancing to the next round are pretty good. Many Vegas fans I am sure were thinking about the matchup against Colorado next round. VGK was dictating the pace, the top line of Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith looked unstoppable, and Marc-Andre Fleury looked unbeatable. VGK fans had every reason to believe it was close to being in the bag.

Then the play that changed the VGK season happened.

With 10:47 to go in the game, a face off draw in the Golden Knights end takes place between Cody Eakin and Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. Eakin loses the draw and gives Pavelski a shove with his stick. As Jonathan Marchessault said in his post-game comments, “That happens on about 50% of faceoffs.” Pavelski then begins to lose his balance, and there is inadvertent contact with him and Paul Stastny. Pavelski goes down to the ice, banging his head pretty hard, and he is cut. Pavelski lays down on the ice for a solid few moments and starts to bleed around his head. 

There are a few things to consider with this play. Firstly, there was no initial call on the ice. Play continued by the Sharks since they had possession and no referee signaled for a penalty. It wasn’t until grandpa Shark Joe Thornton threw a tantrum and got the attention of the refs. The play was blown dead as Pavelski was still down on the ice not moving a whole lot. As the trainer goes over and assesses Pavelski, Thornton and the rest of Sharks team were barking for a 5 minute major penalty. The refs then gathered, and gave Cody Eakin a 5 minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Eakin was thrown out of the game, when there was no initial call. The Sharks then go on to score 4 powerplay goals, to take a 4-3 lead.

First of all, The Golden Knights lost the game, not the refs. The Knights could have killed off the penalty or at least allowed maybe one or two goals. That was on them. With that being said, the NHL should be embarrassed with that sorry excuse of a referee crew and it did significantly impact the game.

The ref went over to Gerard Gallant and stated that “it looked pretty bad” in reference to the hit from Eakin, and that he hit Pavelski in the face. Let’s watch the play again. 

Now, my parents have glasses and I have not seen an eye doctor before so maybe I’m due for a checkup, but I am pretty sure Eakin never touched Pavelski’s face. Then again, I’m just a VGK fan who obviously never watched hockey before the Knights came to town… *face palm*.

You could argue that Eakin did crosscheck Pavelski, but even then, as Marchessault stated, those crosschecks happen on 50% of the faceoffs. If you want to call it, fine, but that is worth two minutes at most. Eakin made no contact to the head, which makes me believe not a single ref actually saw what happened, they only called the result, which was Pavelski laying down on the ice bleeding. That is such a disgrace it makes the Rams-Saints infamous call this past NFL playoff game look like a somewhat decent call.

Vegas had every opportunity to still win the game, and I am not disregarding the fact that they blew it. Great teams must respond to adversity, and to an extent, they did when Marchessault got the tying goal with under a minute to go in regulation. The fact of the matter is the NHL screwed up.

In the NBA, when a player is assessed a flagrant foul, the refs go to the monitor to review it to see if that is indeed the correct call. The same is done for the NCAA basketball as well. In the NFL, due to the fore mentioned Saints-Rams pass-interference call, the NFL changed one of their rules to make a play like that reviewable. How is it that in a game 7, you are going to make such a significant call that can change the outcome of the entire playoffs without actually seeing what happened? The NHL needs to install replay for major penalties. Call it the VGK rule just like the Tom Brady “tuck” rule or whatever you want, but a call that significant should not be allowed to impact the game unless you are absolutely sure. Don’t worry, though, the NHL spends 10 minutes determining if 6cm of a skate blade is on-side or not when they do reviews so that is important.

The team should be pissed. The fans are allowed to be pissed too. They had the game in the bag in almost every facet until that call. These refs are human, and though it is a completely blown call, why not have a system in place to back them up if need be for things they don’t see?

The NHL knows they screwed up, and that is exactly why George McPhee received a call from the NHL Thursday morning stating the refs made a mistake, and they are sorry. 

Also, according to @ScoutingTheRefs on twitter, the two refs in the game 7 of Vegas vs. San Jose have not been selected to officiate the next round of the playoffs. Keep in mind that one of these refs has over 200 playoff games of experience. That makes the pill maybe a tiny bit easier to swallow, but it still won’t change the outcome of the game. 

We will see if any rule change comes from the league, butt honestly, I wouldn’t hold your breath on that happening. There is a reason commissioner Gary Bettina gets booed everywhere he goes even before he opens his mouth. I hope I am wrong, because what happened was unfair and every fan would agree with me that the right call deserves to be made when we have the resources to do so.

Where does Vegas go from here? The team will take some time off and enjoy it with their families and it is well-deserved. They fought hard to the end, and VGK fans should still be proud of them. George McPhee is going to begin locking up William Karlsson to a long-term contract, and will have to make some interesting decisions about pending unrestricted free agents Pirri, Bellemare, and Engelland.

As it goes for you VGK fans, remember this feeling. It sucks, but remember just how good this team is, and how close they are to raising the Stanley Cup. The core is set, with young studs like Cody Glass, Nikita Gusev, and countless others on their way up to make an impact to an already sound team. If you are still depressed from the loss, it’s okay to be. A good strategy to move on from it would be to stay off social media. Go enjoy time with your family and friends, go check out the new Las Vegas Aviators ballpark, and take a small break from hockey, as hard as that may be. This is all part of the process VGK fans. The struggle is only going to make the ultimate victory that much sweeter. We are, and always will be, Vegas Strong.