The Ottawa Senators entered Monday night’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins needing just two points to clinch a playoff birth in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They also entered the game looking for some retribution against Matt Cooke for slicing defending Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson’s Achilles’ tendon back on February 13th.
They failed in accomplishing both of those goals.
Media stirring the pot
Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk kicked things off by “launching and investigation” into the incident involving Karlsson, spurring rumors of an alleged “bounty” on the Penguins’ left-winger. And certainly hockey media ratcheted up the “bad blood” mantra that seemed to swirl around this game in the days leading up to it. In Pittsburgh, Colin Dunlap of 93.7 The Fan interviewed Jesse Marshall, co-editor of the Faceoff Factor, in which Marshall broached the idea of Cooke sitting this one out.
Matt Cooke “Hate-Fest”
Of course, the Ottawa fans were in a tizzy about Cooke being in Ottawa. A Matt Cooke “Hate-Fest” was planned for tonight, complete with posters and signs. Organized by a group who calls themselves the Red Scarf Union, they are about 70 strong, and were encouraging their brood to paint their faces, chant, and help hold up a “WANTED” sign of Cooke that stands about 6 feet tall. The hate fest would continue to a reporter who challenged the manhood of Matt Cooke as seen here. You can draw your opinions from that as you like.
Keeping things in check
The referees did their part tonight by making sure the game didn’t turn in to a repeat of a Pens-Isles brawl back in February of 2011. If you’ll recall, there were 65 penalties assessed in that game, including 15 fighting majors and 21 game misconducts. Tonight, although not a clean game by any stretch, was well-officiated to the tune of 58 total penalty-minutes, with only 2 fighting majors (Bortuzzo & Zach Smith) and a 10-minute misconduct to Steve MacIntyre of the Penguins.
Making himself visible
Cooke was himself tonight, and never shied away from contact. Within seconds of hopping on to the ice for his first shift, Ottawa’s resident tough guy Chris Neil confronted Cooke, begging him to drop the gloves. Cooke wouldn’t oblige and play continued. All through the game, different Senators took a run at Cooke, trying to exact revenge for their fallen comrade Karlsson. Eric Gryba, a defensman for the Sens, even took a silly interference call against Cooke in the same shift as Neil’s confrontation. In the end it was “Cookie” getting the last laugh, as he tallied an assist on Tyler Kennedy’s insurance marker late in the third period, and was +1 for the game. The helper, coupled with his time on the penalty-kill, certainly helped the Pens’ cause this evening.
Playoffs will have to wait
With Winnipeg winning in Buffalo, and the Senators’ loss this evening, their playoff ticket sales will have to wait at least a few more days. Despite 35 shots, Ottawa couldn’t figure out Penguins’ netminder Tomas Vokoun, save for one that got by him. Pittsburgh exerted their will on the Senators for long stretches throughout most of the night, despite the absences of what looks like an all-star team roster: Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), Evgeni Malkin (shoulder), James Neal (concussion), Paul Martin (broken hand), Kris Letang (food poisoning), and Marc-Andre Fleury (expectant father).
One would have to think that the pressure is now squarely on the Ottawa Senators. After surviving this much of the season, with so many stars out of their lineup, their playoff hopes now seem to hang in the balance.
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I’ll have more later in the week, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading! And as always:
“IT’S A GREAT DAY FOR HOCKEY!!”