PITTSBURGH — Over the first four games you could sense a simmer. A slow boil, if you will.
Tonight, the lid popped off.
The Penguins and Predators didn’t like each other heading into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. But that dislike became official tonight, in a blowout win for Pittsburgh that had fireworks throughout.
Sidney Crosby continued his rivalry with P.K. Subban by dropping a series of punches on Subban’s head. Chris Kunitz landed huge bodychecks on Matt Irwin and Mattias Ekholm. Viktor Arvidsson fought Carl Hagelin, Evgeni Malkin fought Roman Josi, and Kunitz fought Yannick Weber.
It’s the kind of hate we haven’t seen from a Cup Final in quite some time.
In fact, you’d have to go back six years to the now-infamous Canucks-Bruins battle of 2011. That series had a slew of nasty incidents, from Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron to Aaron Rome knocking out Nathan Horton — and receiving the longest suspension in Stanley Cup Final history as a result:
There are parallels between that series and this one.
Crosby punching Subban wasn’t unlike Brad Marchand landing a series of jabs on Daniel Sedin. Pekka Rinne‘s struggles in Pittsburgh are eerily similar to the ones Roberto Luongo suffered in Boston.
And just like in 2011, the off-ice temperatures are rising. Everybody’s weighing in.
Prior to tonight’s game, Predators CEO Sean Henry blasted a claim made by Pittsburgh radio personality Dan Kingerski, which alleged Nashville was pumping artificial sound into Bridgestone Arena.
“I just don’t understand that moron that keeps talking about how bad Nashville is or how we pipe in music,” Henry said. “He’s a schmuck, to say what it is.”
You never know when a series will pop off. It never really happened between the Kings and Devils, or Blackhawks and Bruins, or Kings and Rangers, or Blackhawks and Lightning. It certainly didn’t happen between the Penguins and Sharks last year, which ended up as one of the least feverish Cup Finals in recent memory.
And so, it will be interesting to see how things evolve from here.
The series is going back to Bridgestone, where the Preds have been virtually unbeatable this spring, thanks in large part to the energy their frenzied fans provide. This is also the first time Nashville’s faced elimination this postseason, so the desperation level will be high.
And what about supplemental discipline? Sissons could be facing some for the aforementioned crosscheck, though Laviolette argued against it during his postgame remarks.
“I watched it play out,” Laviolette said. “Saw Maatta crosscheck him, Colton crosschecked him back, Maatta crosschecked him again, and they were doing that somewhere in the midsection.
“On the last one, Maatta, seemed to slip and his head dropped. I don’t think there was any intention there whatsoever, so I don’t think [it deserves supplemental discipline.]”
Given what’s at stake in Game 6, it’s hard to see a suspension coming.
It’s also hard to see this series calming down.