This one falls squarely on the shoulders, or rather the elbow, of Matt Cooke. The Pens had played an excellent game and were tied 1-1 with the Rangers about five minutes into the third period. That's when Cooke delivered an elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh.
Here's the problem with the hit - there was no reason for Cooke's elbow to be up high. He (Cooke) didn't stumble or lunge, he just raised his elbow and ran it straight into the head of McDonagh. I can't imagine what Matt was thinking - that kind of hit is never okay. I can't see any way that Cooke isn't suspended for a few games... probably not more than 5, because McDonagh wasn't hurt, but at least a few.
The Pens were able to kill much of the resulting major penalty, and even added a shorty along the way to take the lead, 2-1. Unfortunately, Matt Niskanen took an inadvertent high-sticking call (a double minor) that gave the Rangers two minutes of five-on-three hockey to work with to finish off the major, and a second minor penalty after that.
The Rangers scored on both halves of the double-minor to take a 3-2 lead and the wheels, as they say, were off of the wagon for good.
Staal (10), Kunitz (21)
- Tremendous team effort for much of this game. The Pens largely dominated the territorial play and battered Lundqvist with the puck.
- Lundqvist, unfortunately for the Pens, was very good today. He wasn't perfect (which will disappoint Pierre McGuire), but he was solid.
- The Rangers power play took advantage of the elbow and high sticking calls to take over the game. The Pens could learn something from that - getting a big power play goal when you need it most.
- James Neal is looking more and more like an offensive force every time I see him.
- Alex Kovalev. He needs to simplify his game and get his excellent shot on net, especially on the power play.
- Mike Rupp - just 9 shifts in this game, good for a -2.
- Fleury in the third period. The game was there to be stolen, and the Pens were really close. Your goalie has to be your best penalty killer, and he wans't in the third period today.
- Pierre McGuire saying, in all seriousness, that Lundqvist was perfect, other than the early goal by Staal, and saying later that, other than the shorty by Kunitz, King Henrik was awesome. That's like saying my game of bowling was perfect except for that open frame in the 3rd and spare in the 7th. How about you just say he's playing really well and avoid the inaccurate superlatives?
- I was honestly surprised by Cooke's elbow. I know he plays on the edge (what some would call dirty), but this was a blatant cheap hit. We've seen too many questionable hits from him this season as compared to the last few.
What's their record now? Any important move in the standings?
The Pens are now 41-23-8. The race for the 4th seed is heating up - the Pens have a one point lead over the Lightning and each team has 10 games left.
Not much time to think about this one as the Pens travel to Detroit to play tomorrow night.