Saturday, April 28, 2018 | 10:42 p.m.
The Golden Knights thought they had won.
Jonathan Marchessault slotted a backhand shot into San Jose’s goal in overtime. The players cleared the bench and celebrated as the record-breaking crowd at T-Mobile Arena rejoiced in the excitement that Vegas had taken a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Well, not so fast.
Minutes later, after the NHL reviewed the play in the Situation Room in Toronto, officials waved the goal off for goaltender interference on Marchessault to continue the game.
San Jose forward Logan Couture scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime to even the series 1-1 and swing momentum in the Sharks’ favor as the series turns to San Jose.
On the goal that was eventually overturned, Marchessault skated past Sharks goalie Martin Jones, making contact with the goalie's stick just prior to scoring. However, Marchessault never entered the crease, and many — including former NHL referee Kerry Fraser — believed it was not interference.
“Can’t imagine many players, present or past, (other than goalies) would agree with interference on that disallowed OT goal,” tweeted Fraser, who refereed 2,165 NHL games, including 261 playoff games and 13 Stanley Cup Finals. “Skating outside the blue paint is players territory. Jones stick encroached on that space.”
The officials’ decision to overturn the goal drastically affected the outcome of the game, and possibly the series. In their 28-year history, the Sharks have never overcome a 2-0 deficit, but they now have home-ice advantage.
Here are thoughts on the goal and the effect it had from players and coaches:
Marchessault: “I saw (Jones) was in his crease and I was out of his crease. He moves his blocker towards me so, I think it’s just a referee’s decision at that point and it didn’t go our way. It’s a tough decision and I didn’t really think anything. If it didn’t go our way, I just wanted to catch my breath and get ready to go.”
Coach Gerard Gallant: “They are tough calls. We’ve seen them all year long and they’re tough calls. It went against us tonight and you move on.”
James Neal: “It’s not my place to say anything. It’s a tough one. It’s a lot of emotions. It takes the wind out of your sails a little bit, but I thought we did a good job regrouping and getting back into it.”
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare: “It doesn’t matter what I think at the end of the day. They called it off. There’s nothing you can do about it. They made a call and we just have to move on and accept the decision. It’s pretty simple.”
Nate Schmidt: “It’s tough to see because they only give you the one angle from the bench. It’s tough. It’s one of those calls that you obviously want to go your way and when it gets turned over it sucks. It was close and that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
“Once it took a little longer than usual I thought there might be a chance that they’d turn it over. Guys were on the bench saying you have to reset and get ready to go back out there. They aren’t going to wait for us to feel sorry for ourselves.”
San Jose coach Peter DeBoer: “I thought that was an easy one. The spirit of the rule was called. It was goaltender interference.”
Whether it was the correct call or not, the game is over. The Golden Knights travel to San Jose for Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 on Wednesday.
“It’s frustrating for sure, but you can’t feel sorry for yourself,” Neal said. “It happens and you have to look ahead. I don’t think dwelling on the past is going to do us any good.”
The Golden Knights were outplayed on Saturday throughout the contest, being outshot 47-29.
“(The team) better be ready because we didn’t show up for 45 minutes tonight,” Gallant said. “We didn’t play our game tonight. We played a great game (Thursday night), and tonight — whether we thought it would be easy or what we thought I don’t know — but we didn’t play our game tonight and it cost us big time.”