Playoff hockey: It's when two of the world's best players drop the gloves


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PHILADELPHIA -- Sidney Crosby bit off his words like they were stale beef jerky.

The topic was why the Penguins center swatted away the glove of Philadelphia winger Jakub Voracek as it lay on the ice following a scrum in the first period of Sunday's 8-4 loss to the Flyers.

"I don't like any guy on their team," Crosby said crossly. "His glove was near me. He went to pick it up, and I pushed it.

"I don't like him. I don't like any guy on their team."

Asked why he didn't just leave the glove alone, Crosby scowled.

"Guys are emotional," he said. "There's a lot of stuff going on out there. There's no reason to explain, why I have to sit here and say why I pushed a glove away. They're doing a lot of things out there, too. You know what? We don't like each other. Was I going to sit there and pick up his glove for him, or what was I supposed to do?

"Skate away? Well, I didn't that time."

That incident immediately preceded a fight between Crosby and Philadelphia leading scorer Claude Giroux.

And that was just one slice from a first-round playoff game that cut right to the heart of the heated rivalry between the Penguins and Flyers.

The first two games of the series had been physical -- the teams had combined for nearly 150 hits -- but didn't have the vicious edge so often associated with this rivalry.

That changed Sunday, when the officials handed out 148 minutes in penalties, including 89 to the Penguins.

"You kind of expect that," Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "There was a lot of energy in the building and both teams were pumped up."

Crosby's mood during and after the game -- as well as a series of fights, scrums and thundering hits -- might well have been tied to the fact that the Flyers have taken a 3-0 series lead, putting them on the brink of eliminating the Penguins.

The NHL no doubt will review several incidents in the game to see if supplemental discipline is warranted before Game 4 Wednesday.

In addition to Crosby's participation, there were heavy hits by James Neal in the third period on Philadelphia's Sean Couturier and Giroux that some of the Flyers deemed dirty; a charging call on the Flyers' Brayden Schenn for a hit on defenseman Paul Martin that was followed by a high cross-check on Schenn by winger Arron Asham, who then punched Schenn in the head while Schenn was on the ice; and a fight between defenseman Kris Letang and Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen as Crosby and Giroux were finishing up.

At the end of that last fight, winner Letang put his fingers to his lips as if to shush the Wells Fargo Center sellout crowd of 20,092. It harkened to 2009 when Max Talbot -- then of the Penguins, now with the Flyers -- took one for the team by losing a fight against bigger Daniel Carcillo. That sparked the Penguins to score five unanswered goals and clinch a second-round playoff series with a 5-3 Game 6 win.

The Penguins didn't get the same spark this time.

"We wanted to stay out of all the extracurricular stuff," Neal said. "When emotions are running high, things are going to happen. We want to win just as bad as they do. There's going to be pushing and shoving, and there's going to be big hits."

And, in this case, fights between unlikely opponents.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was tickled about the Crosby-Giroux fight.

"I thought it was great," he said. "In the end, that's really playoff hockey, isn't it? A couple of the best players in the world dropping the gloves and going at it. Would I have rather had [Giroux] keep his gloves on? Sure. But when he's fighting Sidney Crosby, that's playoff hockey. That's this series."

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For much 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, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly


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