Senators' Sutton delivers crushing hit on Penguins' Leopold

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Sidney Crosby had one of the best views for something he never wanted to see -- teammate Jordan Leopold getting knocked out by Ottawa behemoth Andy Sutton.

"It's scary," Crosby, the Penguins captain, said. "First is seeing if he's moving. I was right next to him. He wasn't moving. That's scary."

Leopold, a defenseman, was leveled at 17:19 of the first period of the Penguins' 2-1 win Friday night at Mellon Arena that evened their first-round playoff series at 1-1. He eventually skated off but did not return.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Leopold was "suffering from the hit" and would be evaluated further today, but there were indications he is expected to be all right.

The NHL, which has led a crackdown on hits to the head, no doubt will review the hit by Sutton, who was not penalized. There were mixed views on whether the hit was legal.

"Apparently they thought it was clean," Penguins winger Bill Guerin said. "There's so much going on on the ice, we just have to trust the referees right now. This isn't a time for making a big stink about it.

"We're just glad Leo's going to be OK, and we'll move on from it."

Not that the Penguins lacked emotion at the time.

"We were mad," Guerin said. "Nobody likes to see a guy lying like that on the ice. Again -- and Leo knows this, that we're worried about him and we want him to be OK -- we also have to take care of the game."

On the play, Leopold was carrying the puck along the right-wing boards and had his head down while fending off Ottawa's Nick Foligno. Just after Leopold crossed the red line, Sutton -- 6 feet 6, 245 pounds -- hit him with a blow that made contact with his head, sending Leopold's body spinning parallel to the ice. He was out when he landed, and lay motionless face-down for several seconds.

"It's a hit I've been doing this year," Sutton said. "He had his head down. I moved toward him. It was a clean hit."

Maybe, Crosby said.

"I saw it on the JumboTron," he said of the replay. "I thought his arm was a little extended. I don't know if he got him with his forearm or with his elbow or his shoulder. I'm not sure.

"I know his arm was extended, and when it's extended he knows it's there, so it's possible that he can get an elbow or a forearm there. He's a physical player, but that one's kind of borderline from what I saw."

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik thought "it seemed like a pretty good hit to me, to be honest. You never want to see anybody get hurt, but that was someone, from watching video, he likes to step up like that in the neutral zone. If anything, maybe Leopold was in a vulnerable position, leaning forward.

"Sutton's a guy who plays hard. I don't think he was out there to hurt guys."

Senators coach Cory Clouston, perhaps not surprisingly, defended his player.

"I thought it was a good hit," he said. "The guy had his head down. It wasn't a blind-side hit. I thought it was a good hit."

On Jan. 19, Sutton, then with the New York Islanders, hit Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis into the end boards at Mellon Arena, knocking Dupuis unconscious briefly and knocking him out of a game because of an eye that was swollen shut. Sutton was suspended for two games for that hit.

Dupuis couldn't offer an opinion on Sutton's hit on Leopold.

"I haven't seen the replay," he said. "It's always tough to see one of your teammates lying down on the ice like that, especially by the same guy that hit me earlier in the season.

"But I don't know if it was dirty or not."


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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