Thrashers stun playoff-bound Penguins
By GEORGE HENRY
ATLANTA (AP) Sidney Crosby didn’t like getting checked by Thrashers rookie Evander Kane.
So it seemed the Pittsburgh Penguins
spent most of their energy antagonizing Kane instead of focusing on the
Eastern Conference standings.
“We can’t dwell on this,” Crosby
said. “That’s not going to help anything. We have an opportunity a lot
of other teams don’t have.”
Bryan Little scored a goal, Johan
Hedberg made 33 saves, and the Atlanta Thrashers ruined the Penguins’
hopes of claiming the Atlantic Division title by beating them 1-0 on
The Thrashers also prevented Crosby
from scoring his 50th goal of the season. The Penguins captain will
have one more game – Sunday at the New York Islanders – to try to reach
the milestone for the first time. Crosby, in his fifth NHL season,
recorded three shots on goal.
He was more concerned that
Pittsburgh, the defending Stanley Cup champion, finished behind the New
Jersey Devils in the Atlantic. That cost the Penguins a chance for the
No. 2 seed in the conference.
“It’s disappointing,” Crosby said.
“We hoped to win and get second place. We’ll have to play a good game
(Sunday) and start focusing on the playoffs.”
Atlanta, which has been eliminated
from postseason contention, had lost five straight games. Little netted
the only goal 9:26 of the second period.
Pittsburgh had won eight straight
over the Thrashers and was coming off a 4-2 homestand, but the Penguins
appeared to lose focus after Crosby objected to a check into the boards
by Kane midway through the first period. Crosby was penalized for
cross-checking Kane at 10:24.
Kane was behind Pittsburgh’s net
over 4 minutes later when Michael Rupp was given a 10-minute misconduct
and Eric Godard was called for roughing.
Penguins forward Matt Cooke skated
off under his own power after a fight with Kane left him on his back
for several minutes early in the second.
Cooke was the third of four Penguins
skaters penalized for tangling with Kane, who appeared to anger the
Penguins for hitting Crosby into the boards twice in the first period.
Cooke elbowed Kane 1:59 into the
second. After both players took off their gloves near center ice, the
18-year-old Kane landed two hard right punches to Cooke’s face.
“He challenged me and asked me to fight, and I was not going to back down,” Kane said. “It’s part of the game.”
Medical personnel brought a
stretcher onto the ice as the 31-year-old Cooke laid on his back,
seemingly unable to sit up, but the 12-year NHL veteran soon insisted
he was strong enough to skate off the ice and didn’t return.
“He left the ice saying he was fine
and he continues to be that way now,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
“He obviously will go through a battery of (concussion) tests.”
Cooke, whose blindside hit of Marc
Savard last month caused a concussion that likely ended the Boston
center’s season, wasn’t sure when he will be able to return to the ice.
“It’s a little sore,” Cooke said. “We’ll see how it is (Sunday).”
Atlanta coach John Anderson was disappointed that the Penguins played with a hard edge that could have injured Kane.
“If they take exception to who gets
hit out there, does that mean you are supposed to start a fight?”
Anderson said. “I don’t get it. Crosby is so great for this game, but
when you’re always around the puck, you’re going to get hit a little
bit. Every time he gets body checked, does that mean somebody is going
to get attacked?
“Cooke came at an 18-year-old. What goes around, comes around. That’s all I can tell you.”
Kane drew a slashing penalty from Penguins center Tyler Kennedy after Little scored from the bottom of the left circle.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 21 shots for Pittsburgh.
“We have to be better,” Crosby said. “We have to make sure our game is where it needs to be going into the playoffs.”
NOTES: Thrashers C Jim Slater (lower
body injury) left in the first period and didn’t return. … Penguins
LW Alexei Ponikarovsky served the first of a two-game suspension for
boarding Islanders forward Josh Bailey on Thursday. … Pittsburgh LW
Chris Kunitz (shoulder) was unable to play. … Atlanta RW Nik Antropov
(lower body) missed his second straight game. He is tied with Maxim
Afinogenov for the team lead with 24 goals.
Updated April 10, 2010