Game 7 of the Sharks' Stanley Cup playoff first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights will be remembered for a call and a comeback, and Kerry Fraser can empathize.
In the third period Tuesday, Vegas Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct. On a face-off in the Vegas end, Eakin shoved Sharks captain Joe Pavelski in the path of Eakin's teammate Paul Stastny, and Pavelski's collision with Stastny caused the San Jose forward to hit his head on the ice. Pavelski bled from his head, and needed assistance off of the ice. The Sharks scored four goals on the ensuing non-releasable penalty, and ultimately extended their postseason while ending the Golden Knights' with a 5-4 win.
The longtime NHL referee tweeted Wednesday he thought the penalty was too harsh.
Jim...I felt sick in the pit of my stomach. Mistakes are made, we all made enough of them, but a cross-check SHOVE to the chest area in this case was not the overriding caused of Pav's awkwark fall/injury. Incidental contact from Stastny resulted in bad ending. https://t.co/Ax9vHujFDE— Kerry Fraser (@kfraserthecall) April 25, 2019
Happens often where extended arm shoves in a cross-check motion, either putting players to the ice from behind in front of the net, in open ice or into the boards dangerously are deemed a "battle" & go unpenalized. This was result oriented & my "guess"; not viewed clearly.— Kerry Fraser (@kfraserthecall) April 25, 2019
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant and forward Jonathan Marchessault told reporters they felt badly Pavelski was hurt, but laid into referees Eric Furlatt and Dan O'Halloran after the Sharks' win. Gallant said the referees told him Eakin hit Pavelski in the face, but replay indicated his cross-check caught his San Jose counterpart closer to the chest.
Fraser faced similar criticism after failing to call Wayne Gretzky -- then with the Los Angeles Kings -- for a high-sticking penalty against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I'm sure they're gonna feel like I am, sick in the pit of my stomach. We've all been there," Fraser told The Athletic. "I have the same feeling I had that night on the ice."
Fraser's call, much like Tuesday's, marked a turning point. Gretzky's stick hit Maple Leafs forward Doug Gilmour in the face, drawing blood while the Kings had a power play in overtime. The Leafs led the series 3-2 at the time, and could have clinched a trip to the Stanley Cup Final with a win. But the Kings tied it 3-3 thanks to a Game 6-winning goal from -- you guessed it -- Gretzky.
Toronto ultimately lost Game 7, and the Leafs haven't gotten as close to a Stanley Cup in the interceding 26 years. Vegas doesn't have the Original-Six pedigree, but Golden Knights fans got a great taste of Leafs fans' gripes over the last quarter-century in their second season following the team.
Vegas' complaints are warranted, just as Toronto's were at the time. However, both teams still had chances to make up for it.
The Golden Knights failed to score on a power play of their own following the five-minute major, and could not score in overtime after Marchessault tied the game with 47 minutes remaining in regulation. Vegas also lost two previous close-out games -- one in San Jose, and one in the friendly confines of T-Mobile Arena.
Similarly, Toronto still had a home game of its own and a chance to advance in Game 7. The Leafs and Kings were tied with fewer than five minutes remaining, before Los Angeles scored two goals in a 37-second span.
Both calls will live in playoff infamy, but they didn't have to.