Jon Cooper

New Lightning coach Cooper eager for tonight’s debut

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Jon Cooper, 45, is excited as we get closer to his first game as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s head coach and he expects those emotions will just build as the day goes on, according to an NHL.com report.

“How am I looking right now? Am I looking OK?” Cooper asked after the Lightning’s practice. “OK, so take this and do the opposite and that’s what is going on in here.

“I’m jacked. This is really, really exciting. I’ve got a plan. I’ve done it my way, and here I stand today.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m really nervous, although five minutes before the game I’m sure I will be. There is a wave of emotions. I wish everyone could feel what I’m feeling right now. It’s pretty cool.”

Cooper, the former head coach of AHL Syracuse, is inheriting a team that’s unlikely to make the playoffs despite a wealth of talented players. Former bench boss Guy Boucher led the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, but goaltending woes have been a big problem in recent years.

Cooper doesn’t plan to change the way he coaches and part of that means giving his players more freedom in the offensive zone. That’s something that should appeal to two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner Steven Stamkos.

“It isn’t like you weren’t allowed to make plays with Guy. You still went out there making reads, making plays,” Stamkos said in a Tampa Bay Times report. “But here we know what’s allowed and what’s not, and there’s a lot of in-between where you can make a decision on your own.

“There aren’t specific things in your head you’re thinking about when you’re out there.”

“You’ve got to let guys breathe,” Cooper reasoned. “You’ve got to let them be free down there.”

The New Jersey Devils will be Cooper’s first opponents and his approach will be countered by future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur.

Related:

Yzerman: ‘Marty St. Louis is not going to be traded’

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.