Midway through the second period, the Sharks thought things were about to turn their way.
Andrew Desjardins had just leveled Chicago Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers with a jarring, shoulder-to-shoulder hit to start a string of events that should have put the Sharks on a four-minute power play. But instead of holding Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith accountable for going after Desjardins, the officials handed Desjardins a match penalty for what was deemed an illegal hit to the head.
The anticipated power play never materialized and San Jose went on to lose 5-3 to the Blackhawks on Tuesday in a battle between the NHL's top two teams that definitely lived up to its billing.
"It was a terrible call," coach Todd McLellan fumed afterward. "I don't know if we were going to be able to come back or not, but at that point we were still in the game and we had every opportunity to win and probably should have been on a four-minute power play. It was an awful call."
Less than an hour after the game ended, supervisor of officials Mick McGeough said the match penalty initially called by linesman Jonny Murray had been rescinded.
"The way the linesman saw it on the ice, he was convinced it was a major penalty, McGeogh said. "Unfortunately, he was wrong. It's been overruled."
All that was of little consolation to McLellan and the Sharks, who thought Keith earned an extra four minutes in penalties for instigating a fight while wearing a face shield.
"That doesn't help a team that's played a lot of hockey and needed that player," the Sharks coach said.
The Blackhawks entered the game with 16 points, one ahead of the Sharks and at least three ahead of every other NHL team. The win improved Chicago's record to 8-0-2 while the loss dropped San Jose to 7-2-1 and left the Sharks without a victory in its past three games.
The game had to be a frustrating one for the Sharks beyond the bad call. Twice they led by a pair of goals in a wild first period that ended in a 3-3 tie, four of those goals coming in a burst of 89 seconds.
What also made the period memorable was where those goals were coming from. On two teams laden with All-Stars, Tommy Wingels and Michal Handzus scored their first of the season after Joe Pavelski opened things up with his fifth. Two Blackhawks -- Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger -- also had their first while Andrew Shaw only had one coming into the game.