It hasn’t gone away.
One year after the Golden Knights’ 5-4 overtime loss at the San Jose Sharks on April 23, 2019, the pain still lingers. The five-minute major, the four unanswered goals, the late comeback followed by the gut-punch ending.
All of it.
The first Game 7 in Knights franchise history became a “Where were you when …?” moment once Cody Eakin’s cross-check connected with Joe Pavelski’s chest.
For the central figures, the events of that Tuesday evening at SAP Center in San Jose, California, remain a touchy subject.
The Knights declined to participate in a story about the first anniversary of that defeat. Pavelski, who now plays for Dallas, turned down an interview request through a team spokesperson. So did Eakin, who was traded by the Knights to Winnipeg in February.
Maybe in a few more years, when the wounds have healed, everyone involved will be ready to share their thoughts on that memorable Western Conference quarterfinal series between the newly minted rivals.
But they had plenty to say 366 days ago. Here is a look back at Game 7, in their own words:
A heated series had one more plot twist, as then-Knights coach Gerard Gallant was asked the morning of the game if he wanted to respond to the accusation by then-Sharks coach Pete DeBoer that Gallant was chirping at San Jose players. Gallant said, in part, “for that clown to say that in the paper yesterday, it’s not right.”
Knights forward Ryan Reaves: “It’s tough when you make things up in a chirp. You have to come with facts, so I would say (Gallant) took that one for sure.”
Once the puck dropped, the Sharks carried the majority of the action in the first period after two early power plays. But the Knights took a 1-0 lead into the intermission, as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 11 saves, and center William Karlsson knocked in a rebound at 10:10, one of the Knights’ four shots on goal.
Fleury: “I thought we came into this building and played a good game, a solid game. Did the right things. … I felt comfortable in San Jose, and I felt I played a great game, one of my best in the series, until that power play (in the third period).”
Gallant: “It’s two real good hockey teams. There’s not much between the two teams, and that’s what you see. There’s good hockey games. They play well. There’s a lot of talent on both teams, so there’s not much between the two teams.”
The Knights saw more of the puck in the second period and added to their lead midway through when Eakin tipped Brayden McNabb’s shot past Sharks goalie Martin Jones. Video review confirmed Eakin didn’t deflect the puck with a high-stick, and not long after, Fleury made a windmill glove save on Timo Meier to help send the Knights into the break ahead 2-0.
DeBoer: “I thought we had some chances through the night. Fleury, I thought, was fantastic at different points to keep us off the board. I thought there were some opportunities throughout the game for us to get some momentum and build on it, and he made some huge saves.”
Gallant: “We were in control of the hockey game.”
The Sharks started to press early in the third period trying to cut into the deficit. Eakin got behind the San Jose defense about two minutes in, but couldn’t beat Jones on the breakaway.
NBC Sports Network color analyst Ray Ferraro: “The Sharks have to be careful as they push for one goal that they don’t give up a third. A third one is curtains for them.”
San Jose’s Melker Karlsson hit the post three minutes into the third period. But 36 seconds later, Max Pacioretty beat Jones through the five-hole after Mark Stone created a turnover and the Knights had a 3-0 lead.
Gallant: “San Jose came out and played well. Fleury made some unbelievable saves the first 50 minutes and it was 3-nothing for us, so we were a little bit fortunate to be there.”
Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee: “We were playing very well in Game 7, and it got down to 12 minutes, I think, and you worry about that call that’s coming. And it came, unfortunately.”
Knights owner Bill Foley: “The game was ours. It was over. Three-zip. I was sitting actually with (injured forward Erik Haula), he was sitting with us and we were kind of looking and saying, ‘All we’ve got to do is play some defense. Play defense, stay out of the box.’ And almost within 30 seconds, five-minute major.”
Knights center Paul Stastny lost a faceoff to Pavelski, leading to a long shot by Sharks defenseman Brent Burns that Fleury stopped with 10:54 remaining. Gallant sent Eakin over the boards to take the next draw, and after losing it cleanly, Eakin cross-checked Pavelski in the chest, knocking him off balance. Pavelski became tangled with Stastny on his way down and hit his head on the ice.
Stastny: “More people say it was my fault than anything, but you lose a faceoff, that happens 100 percent of the time off a faceoff. The guy who wins the draw wants to block the guy, the guy that loses the draw wants to push him out of the way. More than anything, we’re both looking at the puck because Brent Burns has the puck and he’s shooting it. So more than anything, we’re trying to get to him and block that angle, so it’s an unfortunate injury.”
Gallant: “I feel awful that Joe got hurt. He’s a class player for their team. Everybody loves him. But there was no intent. There was no high-stick that hit him in the face.”
Pavelski was helped off the ice, and Eakin sat in the penalty box before referees Eric Furlatt and Dan O’Halloran assessed a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking and game misconduct with 10:47 left. Eakin was then escorted off the ice by linesman Michel Cormier.
Eakin: “Actually, when they called me out of the box, I thought, ‘OK, they just reviewed it and realized it wasn’t a penalty, I’ll head back to the bench,’ and they said, ‘No, you’re gone.’ I went right to the room where all the extra guys were watching it. I watched the replay. I figured out pretty quickly exactly what happened. I watched it about 20 times and went to the locker room, sat there and watched the rest of the game.”
Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault: “Furlatt told me, ‘It looks pretty bad.’ If it looks pretty bad, you clearly did not see it. It’s a faceoff. It’s a push. Probably 50 percent of the faceoff players, when they lose, they give a small cross-check, right? If you want to call the cross-check, call it. It’s fine. It’s a cross-check. … But that call changes the whole outcome, changes the whole future of us, the outcome of this year. It’s a joke.”
DeBoer: “If you’re a referee, that’s obviously a distressing sign. As far as the calls goes, listen, you go back through the series, there’s calls that we didn’t get, too, that changed games at different points.”
Pavelski: “Was it a five-minute major? No, I don’t think it was. There’s different aspects. Am I glad they called it that way? Heck, yeah.”
San Jose’s Logan Couture scored the first of his two goals seven seconds into the power play, and Tomas Hertl tallied 49 seconds later to make it 3-2. Kevin Labanc had the go-ahead goal with 6:39 remaining.
DeBoer: “The group rallied. Joe Thornton spoke up. Logan Couture. I think they saw a guy they love and respect in some distress and wanted to do what they could to help the situation, which was try and get some goals and get us back in the game. And they did that.”
Marchessault: “They came clutch. They feed off the bad call, and they came back 4-3. … You’ve got to give them credit at some point. They’re a great hockey team.”
Fleury: “Yeah, they came hard. I just felt they threw a lot of pucks and everyone was around the net. I couldn’t see most of them.”
Marchessault’s goal with 47 seconds left sent the game into overtime, but the Sharks ended it with 1:41 to go in the extra session. Defenseman Erik Karlsson intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and spotted Barclay Goodrow entering the zone with speed. Goodrow blew past McNabb and rounded Fleury to score on just his second shift of OT.
McNabb: “I think Karlsson had it, and I was kind of in between. I should have backed off, obviously, and just take Goodrow going to the net. But I got caught in between, and he was able to get me. Yeah, it stinks.”
DeBoer: “We started to fatigue as the overtime went on because of the short bench with Pavelski out, and we went back to (Goodrow). That’s what it’s about. A guy like that, keep himself ready and jump over the boards and make a play.”
Fleury: “We came back in the game and tied it up. It was a good emotion. It was nice to do, but tough to lose this one in seven (games) in overtime. It’s tough to take.”
Pavelski: “I had the headaches and was dizzy at that moment, but was able to come out. I wanted to be in that (locker) room. I was still very excited for those guys. And then we went and got everything checked out after.”
San Jose went on to reach the Western Conference Final before losing to St. Louis. The NHL altered its rulebook starting with the 2019-20 season, requiring referees to review all major and match penalties.
Marchessault: “Obviously human error exists, but it’s a fast game for everyone. I think everybody needed extra help, and I think they just got involved in the game. Called a bad call and look where we are. The summer’s started. (Expletive) five months now until Game 1 of the regular season starts. It’s awful.”
Pavelski: “The refs have a very tough job with how fast plays happen. It’s a scary play. It gets twisted and everything. Was it malicious or anything like that? I don’t believe so. It’s part of the game. I got twisted up. Got bumped on the way down, hit the head. Again, I was glad it was called that way. From that moment on, what the guys did after it, to actually go and do that, score four goals, it was a special night.”
Gallant: “Last year in the Stanley Cup Finals it was tough to lose. Tonight was tougher than that. It really was the way we lost that hockey game.”
DeBoer: “That’s the craziest game I’ve ever seen. That was wild. I think they’ll be talking about that one for a long time here, and the people that were in the building, I think it was extra special because it was electric.”