Jonathan Marchessault branded the game-changing penalty handed to Cody Eakin as "embarrassing" after the Vegas Golden Knights were dumped out of the NHL playoffs by the San Jose Sharks in dramatic fashion.
The Golden Knights, beaten in the Stanley Cup Finals by the Washington Capitals last year, were leading 3-0 midway through the third period of the Game 7 decider at SAP Center on Tuesday and seemingly cruising into the second round.
But the complexion of the contest changed completely when Eakin cross-checked Joe Pavelski, who collided with Paul Stastny before falling to the ice, where he was knocked unconscious.
The bleeding Pavelski was helped from the rink and Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty, during which time the Sharks rattled in four goals to take the lead. Marchessault did send the game into overtime with a late leveller, but Barclay Goodrow won it for the hosts towards the end of the first additional period.
"They called five minutes for that?" Marchessault said. "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 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 one of the regular season starts."
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said the accidental nature of Pavelski's fall did not warrant what proved to be such a costly penalty for his side.
"I'm sure you've all seen it on TV, there was no intent," he said. "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. When Stastny [came] out, they sort of got caught up and 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 were we in control of the hockey game."
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