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As predicted, Knights-Sharks series becomes instant NHL classic

Updated April 24, 2019 - 5:23 pm

During a teleconference before the hockey playoffs, this is what NBC’s Eddie Olczyk said about the best of seven pitting the San Jose Sharks against the Golden Knights:

“It’s gonna be an awesome series. I can see this series being front and center six to eight weeks from now, and (people saying) you want to sell playoff hockey? All you’ve got to do is play the tape. Because I think it’s going to have everything that’s great about our game, and playoff hockey.”

Edzo was right.

Play the tape.

“Clown. Muffin Man. Grandpa. Lost teeth. A broken nose. Blood on the ice. OTs. And a 3-games-to-1 deficit overturned,” wrote the RJ’s Dave Schoen on Twitter. “The soon-to-be-legendary playoff series between the Golden Knights and Sharks had it all. Including a dramatic ending.”

I defy you to describe it better in fewer than 280 characters.

Years — not six to eight weeks — from now, when guys are sitting around the man cave and they run out of beer and pizza, the topic may turn from women and superheroes to hockey, and of crazy games seen or covered.

And they will play the tape.

Which is what my buddy Brian did late one Las Vegas night at mention of “The Miracle on Manchester.”

Monster meltdown

That’s what Game 3 of a 1982 series between the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings would come to be known. It was played at The Forum on Manchester Boulevard in the L.A. suburb of Inglewood.

The Oilers led 5-0 after two periods. The Kings scored five unanswered goals in the third, the last with five seconds remaining. L.A. scored its third and fourth goals after the Oilers’ Garry Unger was sent off for five minutes after drawing blood with a high stick.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Los Angeles won in overtime when a King named Daryl Evans blasted a shot off a faceoff over Grant Fuhr’s shoulder.

The Miracle on Manchester — and the greatest meltdown in Stanley Cup history — was complete.

In time, somebody probably will come up with a clever name for the drama and pathos that transpired at SAP Center on Tuesday night.

But for Golden Knights fans, it will always be the equivalent of The Bartman Game. Maybe they should call it The Furlatt-O’Halloran-Cormier-Murphy Game.

Referees Eric Furlatt and Dan O’Halloran and linesmen Michel Cormier and Brian Murphy thought Cody Eakin should receive five minutes for cross-checking Joe Pavelski, who lay bleeding on the ice, instead of two minutes or even no minutes, which might have happened had it not looked so frightening.

The ensuing outrage reminded me of Cubs fans after one of their own interfered with a foul pop fly during the 2003 baseball playoffs.

Misplaced blame

The Cubs were leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 when a fan named Steve Bartman reached for a souvenir. They were five outs away from the World Series.

The Knights were leading the Sharks 3-0 when Pavelski went down in a lifeless heap. They were 10 minutes, 47 seconds from moving onto the second round against Colorado.

People in Chicago forget Steve Bartman did not boot a routine double-play ball that would have gotten the Cubs out of the inning before the Marlins erupted for eight runs. Just as people in Las Vegas forget the referees and linesmen were not part of a penalty-killing unit that yielded four goals in a 4:01 blitzkrieg that would have impressed Erwin Rommel.

Of all the thousands of pro hockey games that have been played since 1917, you can almost count on a mitten the number of times a team has been torched for four goals during a five-minute power play. In a 2017 game against Columbus, Toronto skated 4 against 5 for a consecutive stretch of 6:54. The Maple Leafs did not allow a single goal.

As bad a call as that was on Eakin, it should not have been a death sentence.

But once the furor subsides, perhaps a lesson can be learned from The Miracle on Manchester. The year after losing to the Kings in stunning fashion, Edmonton was beaten in the Stanley Cup Final. Then the Oilers won five of the next seven Stanley Cups.

This loss to the Sharks could not have been more crushing for a Knights team that was good enough to win it all, especially after upsets in other first-round series.

But if you play the tape, as Eddie Olczyk says, you’ll find the great teams find a way to overcome adversity, while others blame it on the referees and foul pop flies that get interfered with in the bullpen.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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