The Penguins and the Hurricanes played out a regular-season playoff game Sunday night. Each entered with a possible eight points remaining in their season, and it was the Penguins, by a 3-1score, who left two points closer to the actual playoffs.
The game felt like a Game 1 of a playoff series. It was chippy, it was fast, the Penguins got out ahead, and then the Hurricanes flipped the desperation switch to pile up shots and fight for their hockey lives.
A lot of the game, Justin Williams was doing most of the ... chipping. And, outside of Patric Hornqvist, it didn't seem like many Penguins were willing to shut that part of his game down. More on that in a little, though.
There was a moment that seemed to go well beyond the realm of acceptably chippy hockey. Brock McGinn and Jared McCann got tangled up in the Penguins' zone, McGinn got to his feet first, raised his stick and cracked it down on the neck and shoulder area of McCann.
That's the first image at the top of this story. It's no gentle knighting up there. You can see a bit of the bend of the stick as McGinn slams it down.
And, for the skeptical, he followed it up with this stare:
[caption id="attachment_799514" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
The oddest part about this to me was that referee Jon McIsaac had already moved past the two to join the rest of the action up ice. He didn't sprint away or anything, but he paid rather casual attention to an event that demanded a bit more attention than it got.
A few people reached out during the game that McIsaac was in fact behind the two players and saw what happened, but it looks in photos like he did indeed leave them behind. He saw at least part of what happened, and saw both players as they left the ice.
[caption id="attachment_799513" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
I made it to the locker room rather quickly after the game, and was hoping McCann would be available to chat about the incident. It wasn't just me that saw it. The section behind me and on each side of me threw a lot of words at McIsaac for the remainder of the game.
Unfortunately, McCann wasn't available. So, I went to the person on the team I thought for sure would have seen, because he's the only player who was behind them -- Matt Murray. Unfortunately, again, Murray told me he didn't see what happened. That's not abnormal. He's someone who is incredibly focused on his role and what's happening down ice, not as much individual interactions around the rink.
I'll try to catch up with McCann Tuesday morning in Detroit, however, and see what No. 19 has to say about what happened.
JUST STOP WILLIAMS
Williams can be allowed a lot of license to exercise his style of play around the rink. And the Penguins allowed as much of that license as possible. Well, all except Hornqvist as I mentioned earlier. See below:
[caption id="attachment_799532" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
Moments before, Williams had his arm wrapped around Hornqvist's head and Hornqvist snapped, turning and tossing WIlliams in the process, literally everyone around them watching it happen.
I thought about sharing a tighter crop of the image, but it just didn't seem worth giving up the audience and their faces.
But Williams didn't face much resistance the rest of the game, particularly when he collided with Murray when driving against Justin Schultz:
[caption id="attachment_799537" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
When a collision like this happens, particularly one where the attacking party appears to allow the collision to happen, you expect a bit of retaliation. No one has to throw punches, but Jack Johnson raising a hand to the officials and Schultz reaching down and brushing a hand against Williams while Murray rests in the back of the net? Not ideal options:
[caption id="attachment_799538" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
As always, the rest of the game's best photos follow the first one of McCann. I'll see you guys and gals in the comments.