Penguins Notebook: Flyers' Asham accuses Cooke of biting

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PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Flyers forward Arron Asham has accused Penguins winger Matt Cooke of biting him in a third-period skirmish in the Penguins' 2-1 victory Sunday at the Wachovia Center.

"There was a scrum, I grabbed him," Asham told a group of Philadelphia-area reporters. "There were two guys on [Scott Hartnell] and my glove got tangled in [Cooke's] mouth and he bit me, so I lost it.

"It's not bad, but he's a gutless guy. I have no respect for him at all. I lined up against him and asked him to fight and he didn't want to. If you go and bite someone ... I just have no use for him.

"He does his job well. He's an agitator. He's garbage to me and I have no respect for him at all. You should have a little more honor than that. Usually, if you bite somebody you stick up for yourself and you fight the guy. Not this guy, he's chicken and I have no respect for him.

"He plays the game hard and I respect him for that, but he yaps, he's a dirty player. At least a guy like [Sean] Avery fights. This guy is just [expletive] and I hate him."

Cooke could not be reached for comment after Asham made his accusation, but earlier offered this version of events: "At first, he was scratching the side of my face, then he started ripping my helmet off and punching me in the back of the head."

Earlier this season, Hartnell was accused of biting the finger of Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, but was not punished by the league.

Shot from behind

Goalie Brent Johnson stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced against Philadelphia and was flawless on the 27 that came at him from in front of the net.

It's the one from behind the goal line that gave him trouble.

With the Flyers on a power play at 5:18 of the opening period, Philadelphia's Jeff Carter chopped the puck off the back of the net, then swatted it toward the front of the net.

Before it got there, it deflected off Johnson and into the net for a 1-0 Flyers lead.

"He kind of hacked it off and, I think in the same motion, once it hit the ice, he put it toward the front of the net," Johnson said. "I don't know if it went off my blocker."

Johnson, though, said he had no trouble shaking off that goal.

"I felt confident right from the start," he said. "It was a semi-fluky goal, [something] you have to recover from. You can't let it bother you."

Johnson was somewhat of a surprise starter, mostly because all the talk Saturday had been that Marc-Andre Fleury was ready to return from the broken left ring finger he had received nine days earlier in Edmonton.

Fleury said Sunday he never overtly claimed that he would start against the Flyers, but didn't argue with those who believed he would.

"I didn't deny it," Fleury said, smiling.

Turns out, though, that Fleury's comeback will come just one day later than expected. He is penciled in to start against the New York Rangers at 7:08 tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Give him an assist

Penguins winger Nick Johnson, playing in just his second NHL game, didn't get an assist on Matt Cooke's winner, and that's understandable.

After all, he was sitting on the bench when Cooke scored it.

Johnson played a large role in the goal, however, because he was the one who pressured Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen into shooting the puck over the glass late in the third period, causing the delay-of-game penalty that led to the decisive power play.

"He's coming up the boards, and I have to go [in] on him there," Johnson said. "Just try to get on him quick. I thought it was going to hit the glass, but I guess it got away from him. Good break for us."

This was Johnson's introduction to the Penguins-Flyers rivalry, but not his first exposure to the Philadelphia style of play because the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre has a long-standing rivalry with the Flyers' top minor league team.

"Obviously, the players aren't [Mike] Richards' or [Daniel] Briere's caliber, but it's kind of the same ideas out there," Johnson said. "It gives you a little more comfort."

More of the same

The Penguins were in a low-scoring game Sunday, and might be involved in another when they visit the New York Rangers tonight.

New York has been shut out in two consecutive games -- its streak without a goal has reached 123 minutes, 28 seconds -- and four times in the past seven.

At the same time, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 19 of his past 23 games.

Tip-ins

Philadelphia has scored the first goal in 15 of its past 16 games. Sunday, Jeff Carter got it on a power play at 5:18 of the opening period. ... The Penguins scratched forward Max Talbot and defenseman Martin Skoula. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma did not rule out Talbot playing tonight.




For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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