Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr

PHT’s top 13 of ’13: The lockout finally, mercifully ends

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We always felt they’d work it out and there would be some semblance of a season.

But still, when Gary Bettman said, “Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement,” there was a huge sense of relief that the two sides were able to come together. Because there was always that slight chance they wouldn’t and the NHL would go into a deep, dark hole again.

Looking back, the thought of another canceled season so soon after the last one — as foul and obnoxious as that thought may have been, given we had no particular interest in following the KHL playoffs or going out and getting real jobs  — was in fact what kept us so optimistic. Surely they wouldn’t do it again. As we wrote last Christmas while the work stoppage was still in full effect, “it would be so unfathomably foolish” to let it get to that point.

As writers, the lockout was not an enjoyable topic to cover. It certainly wasn’t why we got into the profession; we did that to avoid getting real jobs. Sure, we got to write the odd funny headline, like “Wingels is KooKoo for Finland,” and we’ll always be proud of that. But mostly our days were filled with rehashing what was said or done by the key figures in the dispute, trying to figure out why they said it or did it, then reading angry comments from people who didn’t care about the what or the why; they just wanted their hockey back.

If there was anything that surprised us about the lockout, it was how quickly everyone forgot about it. To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t even seem like it ended this year. So much has happened since Jan. 6, and the league doesn’t seem to have been damaged whatsoever.

Maybe that shouldn’t have surprised us though. Maybe it was as simple as this: Hockey fans love hockey, and they love watching the best players in the world play it. When that was taken away, there was anger. And when it was given back, there was still anger, but not enough for fans to stay away in protest. Because why do that to yourself? To make some sort of statement? Suffice to say, there are better (or worse, as the case may be) things in the world to protest than a professional sports lockout.

That being said, the NHL better not shut down again when the current CBA expires. That right there would be the death of the league. The fans would rise up. It would be a disaster of biblical proportions. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats living together.

OK, so those last few sentences were actually quotes from Ghostbusters. We just really, really…really don’t want to cover another lockout. Or get real jobs.

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.