The sight of Evgeni Malkin -- a former NHL scoring champion, MVP and playoff MVP -- fighting in a playoff game might sound alarms.
"Hopefully he doesn't get hurt," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "That's the first thing. He's a pretty valuable guy to the team."
Malkin's fisticuffs were just one display of emotion and frustration coming from the Penguins in their 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.
Things boiled over late in the second period after Boston's Brad Marchand was given a minor boarding penalty for a hit on winger James Neal in front of the Penguins bench. Neal's upper body hit the boards.
As a result of a scrum near the Boston net on the ensuing Penguins power play, Penguins winger Chris Kunitz and Bruins center Rich Peverley were assessed unsportsmanlike penalties with five seconds left in the period.
There was another scrum at center ice when the buzzer marked the end of the period, and Malkin fought Boston center Patrice Bergeron.
"I think for the most part, the things at the end of the second, I think they're probably better at that than we are," Orpik said. "I don't think that's something that we want to get involved in."
The Bruins didn't necessarily want to see the Penguins involved in some of those things, either.
"I didn't see," Boston coach Claude Julien said of the action at the end of the second. "Everything happened except that there was a fight and I saw Sidney [Crosby] push our goaltender as he's trying to skate off. This is playoff hockey and those things are going to happen. You don't whine or complain about it. You just deal with it. What we had to deal with was winning a hockey game and that's all that mattered."
Crosby also had words with and shoved hulking Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara.
"We didn't play in a week, and it was probably pretty emotional and getting into it a little bit," Crosby said of his frustration level. "But that's not something we go out there looking for. That's just kind of the result of the way the game escalated."
Before Marchand's hit on Neal, Matt Cooke sent Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid into the boards in the second minute of the second period, earning a major penalty for hitting from behind, a game misconduct and a review from the NHL, which could decide to suspend Cooke.
Some of the Penguins' discontent stemmed from Marchand getting a two-minute boarding penalty for the hit on Neal, not something similar to Cooke's penalties.
"I don't see the difference, really," Crosby said.
Crosby, rarely one to publicly criticize officiating, said the way referees Chris Rooney and Brad Watson called the game contributed to the overflow of emotion.
"It's tough," Crosby said. "They're letting a lot go out there, and the more it gets like that, the more it's going to escalate. You can only control and channel that stuff so much. You keep letting guys do that stuff, you're just going to push the envelope. That's something we obviously want to stay away from, but it's kind of a natural thing when it gets like that."
Asked if it was also a matter of the Bruins trying to get under the Penguins' skin, Crosby didn't back down.
"I don't think [so]," he said. "I think it was just hard to gauge. Interference calls [made] where you barely catch a guy, and then you're allowing punches to the head and extra stuff. It's hard to get a gauge as a player.
"Are we going to play, or are we going to call those little things once in a while? It's hard to get a temperature on the game when that stuff is going on. Then you let a few of those go and everything starts getting out of hand. We've just got to focus on playing."
There might have been a better way for the Penguins to react to the officiating and the Bruins, and channel their emotion.
"There probably is," winger Jarome Iginla said. "It's early in the series and you're excited to get going. Some of those emotions, playing hard [were a factor]. ... But we're a team that wants to play between the whistles. We want to play very high-tempo, keep the plays moving. We're a good skating club and we want to wear teams down that way, and we've been able to do that in the first two series.
"We -- myself included -- probably got into a couple of scrums that we don't need."
First Published June 2, 2013 4:30 AM