NHL apologizes to Vegas for key Game 7 penalty call; refs out for next round, report says

There has been tangible fallout from the Sharks’ stunning Game 7 overtime NHL playoff victory over the Golden Knights, beyond San Jose advancing to the Western Conference semifinals.

Vegas general manager George McPhee on Thursday said the league had reached out to his organization to admit an officiating error was made by assessing a crucial major penalty to Cody Eakin during Tuesday’s Game 7 in San Jose, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

“The league did reach out and apologize,” McPhee said Thursday. “They made a mistake and I’m sure (the officials) feel bad about it. They want to get things right like we all do when we’re doing our jobs.”

And while the Sharks are on to the next round, the Game 7 officials — like the Golden Knights — appear to be finished for the playoffs.

Officials Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt were on the ice for the pivotal major penalty assessed in the third period that gave the Sharks a five-minute power play, during which they scored four times to erase a 3-0 deficit and then went on to win 5-4 in overtime.

ESPN reported Thursday that neither O’Halloran nor Furlatt will officiate games in the second round.

That’s noteworthy particularly in O’Halloran’s case because officials who are pulled after the first round aren’t typically added back to the rotation for subsequent rounds, an unidentified source told ESPN, meaning that in all likelihood O’Halloran will miss his first conference final series in more than a decade. He leads all active on-ice officials in playoff games with Tuesday’s Game 7 the 212th of his career.   

Now it appears all but sealed that he won’t get to No. 213 this postseason after Tuesday’s third-period incident.

Neither O’Halloran nor Furlatt signaled for a penalty after the Golden Knights’ Eakin cross-checked Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, who stumbled backward into Vegas forward Paul Stastny and then fell to the ice, hitting his head.

As trainers tended to Pavelski’s bleeding head, the officials huddled and then Eakin was given a major penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct.      

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.”

According to MoneyPuck.com, at the time San Jose went on the man advantage, the Sharks had only a 1.19 percent chance to win.

Instead, their flurry of goals lifted them into the next round and left the Golden Knights at first stunned and then angry.

“It’s a f—ing joke. They called five minutes for that?” the Sharks’ Jonathan Marchessault fumed about the crucial penalty. “Why don’t you have hockey replay or something? It changed the whole outcome of the game. Seriously. What is that?

“It’s so disappointing. The game is not even close, it’s 3-0. Call the two [minutes], OK, but a five? With something you don’t even see? You just called the outcome. It’s a f—ing joke, that’s what it is. It’s embarrassing. …

“It changes the whole outcome. Obviously human error exists, but it’s a fast game for everyone. I think everybody needed that extra help and I think they just got involved in the game.

“They called a bad call and look where were we are now. Summer’s starting. Five months until Game 1 of the regular season starts.”

For the Sharks, who have the solace of an apology from the NHL, and apparently for a pair of NHL officials now, too.