In the first game after a controversial high stick from Penguins defenseman Kris Letang that left Rangers forward Viktor Stalberg without three of his teeth, the two adversaries did not resume any hostilities and had no points on the scoresheet in Thursday night’s 5-0 win by the Penguins in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
The incident in Game 3 had prompted Stalberg to call the blow a “dangerous” play that was a penalty “no matter how you look at it.”
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No penalty was called on Letang, who said Wednesday that he was off-balance and that the blow, which occurred at 7:12 of the third period on Tuesday night, was not intentional. The NHL decided that no supplemental discipline was warranted.
Stalberg, 30, who had nine goals and 20 points during the regular season, doesn’t have a point in the first four games of the playoffs and was a minus-2 Thursday night. Letang played more than 20 minutes and was a plus-1.
The Rangers were trailing 2-1 when the incident occurred, and although Stalberg said he was fortunate that the injury, which left him bloodied, wasn’t more serious, he also lamented that no infraction was called by the referees.
“I didn’t really see what happened on the ice, but watching the replay, it was kind of a dangerous play. I’m lucky,” Stalberg said after the morning skate at the Garden on Thursday. “Of course it’s a penalty no matter how you look at it. But again, things happen fast out there. They’re going to miss stuff. It’s going to happen both ways, so you can’t really dwell on it too much. But obviously, that’s the frustrating part. At that time of the game, it would have been good for us to get a four-minute power play.”
On Wednesday, Letang said he had skated by the Rangers’ bench and said “sorry,” but Stalberg on Thursday denied that Letang apologized to him. “No, that’s not true. I haven’t heard anything from him,” he said. “Honestly, I couldn’t care less if he did or not. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the playoffs. We’re not looking to put any focus on this . . . It didn’t catch me too badly. I’m fortunate there. Guys get hurt all the time. We’ve got to be better here tonight as a group and not look back.”
Unfortunately for the Blueshirts, they were not.
Rangers coach Alain Vig neault said Stalberg, who was bought out by Nashville and signed as a free agent last summer, is “hungrier this year. Knowing that you only get so many kicks at the can, he wanted to prove he can play at this level. He’s brought us good energy and physical presence.”