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Sidney Crosby probably won’t be back for Pittsburgh’s first playoff game

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To some, this might seem like a no-brainer of a sentiment, but all indications point to Sidney Crosby missing at least Game 1 of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Despite participating in game-day skates with his teammates for more than a week, Crosby still has two unspecified steps to take before he can even be cleared for contact, according to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma admits that he doesn’t know how fast Crosby will get back into NHL action — if it even happens during this postseason — and continues to tell reporters that there isn’t a time table for their star player’s return.

As tough as it’s been for Crosby to miss so much time during what was looking like the best season of his already incredible career, watching his team fight through the playoffs without him should be even more difficult.

That being said, I’m among the many who believe that the Penguins should err on the side of caution with Crosby. Beyond the obvious question of how far Pittsburgh can really go without Evgeni Malkin in the fold to help out, the biggest issue is his long-term health. As tempting as it might be to get him back in the fold, Crosby is only 23 years old. It’s possible that he may never be the same after these bouts with concussions — the more we “learn” about the injuries, the cloudier the issue becomes — but rushing back into action greatly increases the likelihood of another injury.

If he ends up sitting out during the entirety of the playoffs (as painful as that might be), Crosby would have the chance to come into training camp without incurring any wear and tear since January. Considering his hectic hockey schedule, he might not get another breather like that for the next 10 years (maybe more).

The Penguins have done a nice job of managing big-picture decisions with being brave enough to make moves for the present, but we’ll have to wait and see how well they handle this conundrum.

So far, the future is still pretty unclear, but we’ll let you know as additional information surfaces.

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.