Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt were on the ice for a pivotal major penalty call in the third period that gave the Sharks a five-minute power play. The Sharks scored four times on the man advantage to erase a 3-0 deficit, and won the game 5-4 in overtime. The Sharks will face the Colorado Avalanche in the second round.
Controversy stemmed from the fact that neither O’Halloran nor Furlatt signaled for a penalty when Sharks captain Joe Pavelski was cross-checked by Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin in the chest. Pavelski stumbled backward, collided with Vegas forward Paul Stastny, and fell to the ice — hitting his head, and bleeding. As Pavelski was being attended to by trainers, the officials huddled and Eakin was given a major penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct.
The NHL’s Department of Hockey Operations chooses which referees advance in the playoffs, with the pool whittled down after each series. It’s especially notable that O’Halloran is not working, considering he leads all active refs in career playoff games officiated. Game 7 was O’Halloran’s 212th career playoff game.
O’Halloran is expected to miss his first conference final series in over a decade, as a league source told ESPN that referees who aren’t chosen for earlier rounds are typically not added back later in the playoffs, barring for injuries or other circumstances.
Vegas took exception to the penalty, especially forward Jonathan Marchessault, who delivered strong criticism in the locker room afterward.
“Furlatt said, ‘It looks pretty bad.’ If it looks pretty bad, then clearly you did not see it,” Marchessault said. “It’s a faceoff. It’s a push. Probably 50 percent of the faceoffs, players — if they lose — they probably give a small cross-check, right? If you want to call the cross-check, fine, call it. It’s a cross-check. But seriously, he falls bad. It’s unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of Joe Pavelski. And he went down, and I really hope he’s OK and he comes back. But that call changes the whole outcome. It changes the whole future for us and the outcome this year. It’s a joke. I would be embarrassed if I was them.”
The NHL, through a pool reporter at Game 7, issued a statement from series officiating supervisor Don Van Massenhoven: “The referees called a cross-checking penalty for an infraction that caused a significant injury. In their judgment, the infraction and its result merited a major penalty.”
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said after the game he wasn’t pleased with the explanation he was given by the officials.
“They said he cross-checked him across the face, and as we all saw, that didn’t happen,” Gallant said. “There was no high-stick that hit him in the face. When Stastny came out, he fell and banged his head on the ice. That’s the unfortunate part of it. It was an awful call. We’ve all seen it. It’s too bad we end up losing because of that because we’re in control of the hockey game.”
According to MoneyPuck.com, the Sharks had a 1.19 percent chance to win the game when they were given the five-minute major.
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski contributed to this report.