Washington coach Bruce Boudreau offered a phrase to describe the verbal sparring between his Capitals and the Penguins during their second-round playoff series.
"It's just jockeying and whining," the coach said before his team's morning skate yesterday, hours ahead of Game 3 at Mellon Arena.
That didn't stop Boudreau from weighing in on the latest barb trade, the one in which the Penguins accused Washington of using illegal picks -- which would normally bring a penalty, such as interference -- in the first two games.
Specifically, the Penguins thought Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke were victims of such actions in the first two games of the series.
"I agree there was a lot of interference, but most of it was done by them," Boudreau said. "It's so funny -- it really is -- that when we were pre-scouting these guys, one of the things we were talking about was how many picks Matt Cooke throws everywhere. I know he's whining about the last goal [by the Capitals in Game 2], but, if you look, every faceoff they won, he interfered with our guy going to the net."
Capitals center Brooks Laich found the Penguins' objections a bit shallow.
"I'm assuming they're only complaining about that when we win the faceoff," he said. "When they win the faceoff, they're doing the same thing -- they're trying to bump our guys and get in our way.
"They've done it for 90 games. Every team does it. It's just battling and just trying to control as much ice as you can. Both teams are competing. The referees are doing great job, and if they see something, they'll call it."
Washington star Alex Ovechkin, who scored on the two plays questioned by the Penguins, sided with Boudreau and Laich.
"You can't call everything," he said. "You can't see everything that's going on."
As an example, Ovechkin brought up the Capitals' biggest point of contention through the first several days of the series -- the cross-check Penguins winger Chris Kunitz put to the head of Washington goaltender Simeon Varlamov in the final minute of Game 2, just before Penguins center Sidney Crosby scored.
"You can see when Crosby scored his third goal, you can see what Kunitz did -- he cross-checked our goalie," Ovechkin said. "No calls. The referee was one meter [away], and he didn't see it. You can say [there are] lots of penalties and no calls."
A day after he noted how upset he would be if Kunitz didn't get suspended -- the Penguins winger got a fine from the NHL, but no mandatory time off -- Ovechkin shrugged it off.
"It's the NHL's call, not us," he said.
Boudreau grew up in Toronto and played parts of four seasons with the Maple Leafs, but he is not a purist who would hate to see his hometown gain a second NHL entry, as some have speculated would happen if Ontario businessman Jim Balsillie buys the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes.
"I think it's great," Boudreau said. "Toronto could probably be the only city right now that could afford to have a second team in its area."
Balsillie, the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, earlier attempted to buy the Penguins and Nashville Predators.
Defenseman John Erskine missed his second consecutive game after being hit by a shot in Game 1. Rookie Tyler Sloan again took his spot in the lineup. Winger Eric Fehr, who had been questionable after leaving Game 2 with an undisclosed injury, also was out. He was replaced by Michael Nylander. The Capitals also scratched defensemen Karl Alzner and Jeff Schultz, and winger Donald Brashear (suspension).