NEW YORK — The Pittsburgh Penguins led 2-0 later in the second period and had Game 5 under control. A Penguins win meant the New York Rangers would be eliminated, and the Penguins would await the winner of the Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes in Round Two.
New York rallied for a 5-3 win and staved off the end of their season.
Of course, the Rangers would be eliminated, which gave them the license to injure the Penguins’ best players. First, New York defenseman Jacob Trouba elbowed Jake Guentzel about one minute into the game. Trouba delivered a few hard hits before going after Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
Trouba delivered a chicken wing to Crosby’s head later in the second period. Crosby went to the bench in obvious discomfort, then left the ice. The still frame from well-respected Canadian reporter John Shannon was damning.
Trouba on Crosby…Point of impact. pic.twitter.com/lnHqbTGVNO
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) May 12, 2022
PHN asked Penguins coach Mike Sullivan if he thought Trouba had intent.
“Did you see the hit,” he asked, to which I replied I did.
“You probably have the same opinion as I do,” he replied with an acknowledging nod.
To get Sullivan’s honest thoughts would be priceless, but the NHL could probably figure out a steep price. So, perhaps mine will suffice.
Sidney Crosby did not return. It was an obvious intent to injure. A “reckless hit” is a benefit of the doubt I’m not inclined to give, provided the situation and Trouba’s repeated and continuous actions.
He was headhunting, and he got the biggest one, yet the officials didn’t call it a penalty. The NHL surely must, but does anyone have that confidence?
Officials only gave Trouba two minutes on the game’s first shift when he delivered a shiver to Guentzel’s head. Then called nothing for nearly 40 minutes.
Look, officiating NHL playoff games is like trying to make sense of a mosh pit. It’s thankless, it’s nearly impossible, and that’s why the best officials for decades talk about “managing the game,” but in this case, not calling penalties for two periods emboldened a dirty hit.
Trouba had intent. He delivered too many high hits for it to be an isolated accident. He was going for Crosby’s head because the Rangers had no chance with Crosby dominating play.
The game was about over. Five minutes were remaining in the second period, and not even the buzz of Madison Square Garden could awake the Rangers.
After the hit, New York took advantage of the shuffling Penguins lines and emotional change in temperature. New York reeled off three goals in less than three minutes. The officials finally called a penalty…against the Penguins early in the third period.
IF officials called the penalty, New York would have been shorthanded for the remainder of the period. There would have been no rally.
After the game, the Penguins kept a stiff upper lip. They didn’t blame Crosby’s absence for their three-minute meltdown, but how could any reasonable observer not connect the two?
“They get a lot of energy from the crowd, and we had good control there. But we’ve got to get back on our toes again,” Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. “That’s when we’re at our best, not sitting back and defending. We’re at our best when we’re on our toes and forechecking and skating.”
It was Dirty
New York’s season will continue into Game 6, and the Penguins may not have Sidney Crosby in the lineup. It’s hard to imagine the Penguins winning a game without Crosby leading the charge.
If you can’t hurt the guy with six goals, go after the captain with nine points in four games, right? It’s allowed. It’s the Cup. Those (expletive deleted) should toughen up. It’s only a concussion, right, Colin Campbell?
Hey, no American hockey journalist has defended the NHL and the western Canadian physicality more than this guy. But let’s get real. Rough up Crosby. Hit him every chance you get and maybe a couple that you don’t get. That’s hockey.
An elbow to the head? That’s dirty.
Pittsburgh Penguins Anniversary–Rangers Goonery
This weekend is the 30th anniversary of blatant goonery. In 1992, the New York Rangers gooned up the Pittsburgh Penguins when head coach Roger Nielsen gave a little wink and nod to Rangers legend Adam Graves, who then baseball chopped Mario Lemieux’s arm.
Sure, it’s the Cup, after all. To win the series, those Penguins rallied behind a Hall of Fame second-line center, Ron Francis. These Penguins will have to do the same because…
If you can’t beat ’em, hurt ’em.
It’s been true for far too long. The lack of punishment and tacit acceptance cast a pall on what was an entertaining series that drew the highest U.S. TV ratings of any non-Canadian series.
Accepting “evening the playing field” by taking out the other team’s best players remains the most disgusting part of hockey. Can you imagine a defensive lineman elbowing a quarterback in the third quarter because his team was behind by two scores? Can you imagine a pitcher drilling a hitter in the head because he was 3-for-3 in an elimination game?
That’s what makes hockey great, right?
Crosby dominated New York. He had multi-point efforts in each of the previous four games, and New York didn’t have an answer. Crosby’s expected goals-for in the first period was over 90%.
Jake Guentzel already had two goals. New York’s season was about to be OVER.
The toxic underbelly of hockey culture again showed fans the worst. Again, officiating let down hockey.