Penguins' fourth victory since break overshadowed by Boston's Savard being carried off
Bruins' Marc Savard lays on the ice after taking a hit by Penguins' Matt Cooke in the third period Sunday afternoon. Savard was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Matt Cooke, seen here checking Bruins' Johnny Boychuk early in Sunday's game, has built a reputation for gritty play.
Penguins' Chris Kunitz flies into the upper crossbar over Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas.
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This game will be remembered for the hit that felled Boston center Marc Savard, and understandably so.
Blows to the head are a major concern in the NHL these days, and the one Matt Cooke delivered to Savard late in the third period of the Penguins' 2-1 victory Sunday against the Bruins at Mellon Arena is one sure to be dissected and discussed, at length, across the continent.
Certainly, it will be at the league office in Toronto, where Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, issues fines and/or suspensions when he deems an incident worthy.
Which, not surprisingly, the Bruins fully anticipate in this instance.
"A guy like that has to be suspended," said Boston coach Claude Julien, who described Savard's injury as a concussion of unknown severity.
"That's the way I see it, because it's an elbow to the head from the blindside and that's exactly the example they show of what we've got to get out of this game."
Cooke dropped Savard at 14:23 of the third period, when he drove his upper left arm or shoulder into the right side of Savard's head just after Savard had thrown a shot toward Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Cooke said he was trying to finish a check, and that he believed the contact was shoulder to shoulder.
Although neither referee assessed a penalty for the hit, that does not preclude supplemental disciplinary action by the league office.
Savard, who seemed unaware that Cooke was closing in on him, was strapped to a spine board before being removed from the playing surface. He raised his right hand to acknowledge an ovation from the crowd while being carried off the ice.
Savard was not hospitalized, but was to remain here overnight with a member of the Bruins' medical staff.
"It's pretty scary stuff," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. "You don't wish that on anyone. It's pretty tough to watch, actually."
The victory was the Penguins' fourth in a row since the Olympic break, bumped their record to 40-22-4 and assured they will occupy first place in the Atlantic Division when they face New Jersey Friday night in Newark.
The Devils are 4-0 against the Penguins this season but have sputtered of late, while the Penguins are playing their most confident, sound hockey since October.
Evgeni Malkin got their latest winning goal -- his seventh on 23 goals this season -- at 1:27 of the third period, when new linemate Alexei Ponikarovsky went hard to the net and Malkin threw a wrist shot past Boston goalie Tim Tomas from the right dot.
"There's not a lot of flair to Alexei's game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "The goal was evidence of that. He picks up a turnover, gets his feet moving, moves the puck -- a simple play, but he drives the net.
"There's not a lot of flash. You don't have to read. [Malkin] doesn't have to figure out where the guy's going. He's going to the net. That gives [Malkin] more time and space with the puck, and creates havoc at the net when [Malkin] shoots the puck."
Unlike Malkin's goal, the first two of the game could be traced to slow whistles.
Blake Wheeler gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 3:12 of the second period, when he pulled the puck out from under Fleury and swept it into the net on a power play.
"I would have loved for the refs to blow [the play dead], since I had it under my stomach," Fleury said. "But I guess they judged it [to still be alive].
Dupuis got that one back for the Penguins at 8:57, jamming away at the puck near the right post until it got by Thomas.
"Both times, they didn't blow [the whistle] and the puck ended in the net," Julien said. "Whichever way you look at it, it evened out, didn't it?"
Dupuis' goal was his 16th, his second-highest total since breaking into the NHL in 2000-01. Three of those have come in the past four games, when he has played some of his finest hockey since joining the Penguins two years ago.
Not that Dupuis is focused on individual achievements at this point of the season.
"It has nothing to do with how many goals I get," he said. "We're on a four-game winning streak. As long as the team keeps winning, how many goals I get doesn't really matter."
First Published March 8, 2010 12:00 am