Sean Avery accuses Wayne Simmonds of making homophobic remarks during preseason game

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People who follow the New York Rangers-Philadelphia Flyers’ rivalry should be accustomed to games getting very contentious. That being said, tonight’s preseason match featured more than just bad blood.

There were two incidents that will leave many shaking their heads, but the headline-grabber involved Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds is being accused of making some off-color remarks to Sean Avery less than a week after he dealt with a disgusting display of racism from at least one fan in London, Ontario. Simmonds didn’t really deny making the comments, although he didn’t confirm them either.

Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert pointed to a video that indicates that Simmonds made a homophobic comment to Avery. Various sources report that Avery confirmed those rumors, while Simmonds vaguely said that “language was exchanged.” Simmonds said he didn’t recall the specific words he said, a response that left many rolling their eyes.

Here are some quotes from both sides. (For a full video of Simmonds’ comments, click here.)

“To be here now having to answer the questions about what he did is disappointing for me. I’m disappointed for him,” Avery said.

(snip)

“Honestly, we were going back and forth for a while there,” Simmonds said. “I don’t recall everything that I did say to him but he said to me some things I didn’t like and maybe I said some things that he didn’t like. I can’t recall every single word I said.”

The incident gains relevance because it was Simmonds and Avery

It’s naive to assume that these types of comments are uncommon in sports, as sad as that might be. This case is more noteworthy because of the two parties involved, though. Some might lose some respect for Simmonds after tonight, especially after what happened last week. (That seems unfair since Simmonds didn’t make a big deal about the awful banana-throwing incident, but that won’t change the way some feel about this situation.)

Avery is also a notable recipient of that comment for two reasons.

1. Avery has been outspoken regarding the topic of gay rights, although it’s hard to imagine that Simmonds allegedly made those remarks for that reason.

2. On the flip side of the coin, Avery has been accused of troublesome comments of his own in the past. Georges Laraque claimed that Avery called him a “monkey,” although the Rangers pest denied that accusation.

Again, these kinds of comments might be commonplace in trash-talking, but that doesn’t make the situation acceptable. The bottom line is that both scenarios are extremely disappointing.

There’s some talk regarding whether or not NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan should take action. Some fans might insist that the league shouldn’t intervene in trash-talking situations, but Avery’s six-game suspension in 2008 is just one example of the NHL sidelining a player for a remark or gesture rather than an ugly hit. It’s tough to speculate about what might happen here – if anything at all – but there is some precedent to players being suspended for words or gestures rather than actions.

A more straightforward issue

Speaking of handing out suspensions, the Rangers-Flyers game might provide Shanahan with something a little less nebulous to deal with. As you can see from this video, Tom Sestito caught Andre Deveaux with a check from behind. In a twist that might seem fitting to some and stomach-churning to others, Sestito essentially replaced Jody Shelley, a depth player who received a hefty suspension for a check from behind. Sestito seemed worried about a possible similar punishment, while Rangers head coach John Tortorella said that the hit was even worse than the one Shelley delivered.

Jagr shines in an ugly game

The game was flat-out ugly through the first two periods, with the Rangers tallying 38 PIM and the Flyers ending up with 39. That’s not to say that there weren’t moments of beauty, though, as Jaromir Jagr made his home preseason debut a tantalizing one by scoring two goals and one assist in a 5-3 win.

Chances are, that nice output will be forgotten long before the Simmonds-Avery incident, though.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.