There might be a temptation to say the Penguins and Blue Jackets injected some fire into a rivalry Friday night, in a game won 2-1 in overtime by Columbus.
Resist that temptation.
This isn’t about a rivalry. A rivalry has hard hits and emotion and disagreements and, often, fights. Rivalries are great. Who doesn’t love rivalries? This is about a cross-checking incident.
Late in the second period, Brandon Dubinsky was trying to move Sidney Crosby out from the front of the net on the power play when he cross-checked Crosby right in the back of the neck. When Crosby crumpled to the ice, Dubinsky cross-checked him again, breaking his stick on Crosby’s back.
Crosby went back to the locker room. He said he went through the NHL concussion protocol and returned for the start of the third period. Dubinsky got a minor penalty.
Dubinsky told the Columbus Dispatch his stick rode up a little bit on Crosby. When it comes to punishment, though, that really doesn’t matter. The rulebook says the determining factor between minor and major is the “severity of the contact.” The only way intent comes into play is if you’re talking about a match penalty for intent to injure, which, really, probably isn’t off the table in this discussion.
To say a minor penalty was the right call, you’d have to believe that the contact wasn’t severe and there was not intent to injure. I don’t think Crosby believes that.
“Didn’t feel like (a minor penalty),” Crosby said. “I didn’t see it. Maybe it didn’t look as bad as it felt. The official’s there beside the net. It’s really up to him.”
“I’m not surprised,” Crosby added later. “If I was going to get one of those shots, it would probably be from him.”
The NHL will have its say, of course, when it decides whether to suspend Dubinsky or not. On that question, I ask this: Try to take yourself out of the context of being a hockey fan and watch this clip in a vacuum. What do the optics of this video clip say about the NHL?
Some other notes from tonight’s game:
— The Dubinsky cross-check and a Patric Hornqvist hit on Matt Calvert in the corner led to some bad blood boiling over. That led to Evgeni Malkin fighting Jack Johnston. It was the Penguins’ second fighting major of the season, the first since Bobby Farnham fought Mark Borowiecki in the fourth game of the year.
— Malkin got some measure of revenge when he scored on the power play to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the third.
— The Blue Jackets tied it up on a rebound goal by Ryan Johansen. Marc-Andre Fleury said Scott Hartnell whacked him on the leg with his stick, preventing him from pushing off normally. Coach Mike Johnston challenged the call, but it upheld.
— Dubinsky, adding insult to injury, set up Cam Atkinson for the winner in overtime. It was Columbus’ first overtime game of the season. The Penguins fell to 3-1 in overtime.
— Before the ugliness started, the Blue Jackets kept the Penguins penned up in their own zone routinely. Fleury was the only think keeping the game close. This was not a good night for the Penguins’ D corps.
Bill West’s got you covered for tomorrow’s game against Edmonton. Follow him on Twitter at @BWest_Trib. I’ll pick things back up in San Jose on Monday. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment if the mood strikes.
Bye for now,