Not only did Matt Cooke cost the Penguins a game, it may have cost him his season.
Cooke, who has been suspended twice in his career and escaped some others, is facing a severe suspension after his charge across the ice and blind-side elbow to the head on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh with the score tied at 1 in the third period here today. "I never saw him coming at all," said McDonagh.
Cooke was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct at 4:36, and although Chris Kunitz scored a shorthander at 6:26, the Rangers struck back and emerged with a remarkable 5-2 win, their fourth straight and sixth in the last seven.
Matt Niskanen bloodied Ryan Callahan's nose with a stick and was tossed for four minutes, providing the Rangers with a 5 on 3. Marian Gaborik chipped in a loose puck at the right post at 9:28, and Callahan, still bleeeding from the bridge of the nose, scored 11 seconds later, on a 5-on 4, with a blazing wrister from the lower right circle past Marc-Andre Fleury's glove.
For two periods, the Rangers had just 14 shots on Fleury, while Henrik Lundqvist, questionable with a stiff neck from the charge by Montreal's Beniot Pouliot on Friday, was the best player on the ice for the Blueshirts, stopping 28 of 29 shots and 38 overall.
With the rally and the two points, the Rangers (39-30-4, 82 points) are six clear of the idle, ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes. Buffalo, four points back in eighth, began play at 5 p.m.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was cleary not happy--and embarrassed--- with Cooke.
I don’t think you can talk about eliminating head shots from the game, as we have, as an organization," Bylsma said, "and not expect that to be examined, as what looks to be contact right to the head, on the play. The league will look at that and treat it as such...
We took a five-minute major in a situation where it was a tight game. Anytime you take a penalty like that, you’re putting your team down for five minutes, you’re putting your team in a tough spot. It’s an undisciplined play. Up to that point, I thought the game was played pretty well by our team. We were doing a lot of good things, and wanted to continue to play the way we were. That put us in a situation where it changed the game."
McDonagh, who said he was fine in the locker room, but was later examined by doctors in a separate room, was a little more muted: "I didn't see him coming at all, but it hurt, that's for sure....It is what it is ...Rammer (trainer Jim Ramsay) asked me some questions (on the bench) and I answered them. I would hope it wasn't with intent, it's a tight game, he's probably not trying to give his team a five-minute penalty...he's trying to finish the check. He hit me wrong." GM Glen Sather told McDonagh: "Don't worry, he should get 10 games."
At 16:35 of the third, McDonagh went off for roughing as he battled with Kris Letang, and blocks by Callahan and Michael Sauer helped stave off the threat. When McDonagh came out of the box, Artem Anisimov found him for a breakaway and although Fleury blocked his initial shot and rebound, Derek Stepan cashed in the follow at 18:45. Dubinsky then ended it with an empty-netter with 39.2 left.
In a second period that Tortorella called "brutal", as the Pens outshot the Rangers 19-7, Lundqvist was outstanding, stopping every one. The period ended 1-1 with the Pens ahead in shots 29-14.,
The Pens also took the play to the Rangers for the first eight minutes of the game, and tested Lundqvist. Shots were 7-1 in the first eight minutes, until Dubinsky won a battle with Chris Conner along the left boards in the Pittsburgh zone, got the puck to Callahan, who fed Anisimov in front with a pretty pass, and his shot beat Fleury at 11:20. It was Anisimov's 18th of the season and fifth in the last nine games.
But James Neal, in mid-ice along the right boards, found Jordan Staal cutting down the middle past Dan Girardi, who was cheating to his left, and charged in alone on Lundqvist, who managed to get a piece of the low shot to his blocker side. But the puck fluttered in at 15:59. Ben Lovejoy also received an assist.
Tortorella double-shifted Gaborik for awhile, as Mats Zuccarello played just 2:50 in the period. Shots ended 10-7 for the Pens. The Rangers killed a roughing penalty to Callahan at 16:40 when a scrum erupted in front of Lundqvist, who ended up in the dislodged net. But he picked himself up and persevered, just like this resilient Rangers team.