Niskanen won’t be suspended for Crosby cross-check

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Over the last few hours, there’s been a lot of debate as to whether or not Matt Niskanen would be suspended for his cross-check to Sidney Crosby‘s head.

He won’t be.

Niskanen was given a five-minute major plus a game misconduct for the incident, but will escape supplemental discipline for the incident, according to the Washington Post’ Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Crosby left the game and did not return. The Penguins had no update on his condition following the game, and head coach Mike Sullivan declined to comment on the hit itself.

The Caps were much more vocal in their explanations. Bench boss Barry Trotz called it a “hockey play,” while Niskanen insisted he didn’t intend to injure Crosby on the play.

“I’ve seen the replay,” Niskanen said after the game. “In super slow-mo, it looks really bad. I caught him high. He’s coming across trying to score.

“As he’s doing that, he’s getting lower and lower, and when it’s happening that fast, you know, my stick and his head collided. I wasn’t extending trying to hit him in the head. It happened quickly.”

Capitals, Penguins reflect on Crosby’s ‘gut-wrenching’ injury

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PITTSBURGH — The main talking point to come out of the Washington Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win on Monday night isn’t going to be the result, or the fact Kevin Shattenkirk made up for some of his postseason struggles by scoring the winning goal.

It is going to be the play that knocked Sidney Crosby out of the game in the first period, what will happen to Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen as a result of it, and when we might see Crosby back on the ice.

As for the latter point, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan had no update on Crosby’s status after the game only to say all of the Penguins injured players will be evaluated overnight and that they will “go from there.”

But for everything else there were no shortage of opinions.

First, Niskanen himself answered for the play and insisted that he was not trying to cross-check Crosby in the head.

Or at all, really.

“Absolutely not,” said Niskanen when asked if he was trying to hit Crosby in the head.

“It wasn’t intentional. I’ve seen the replay, and the super slo-mo looks really bad. I caught him high, I think he’s coming across, trying to score. As he is doing that, he’s getting lower and lower, and when it’s happening that fast, my stick and his head collided. I wasn’t extending, trying to hit him in the head. It happened quickly.”

He was asked a follow-up question about trying to cross-check him elsewhere and then ended up catching his head as Crosby fell.

“I wasn’t even trying to cross-check him with a serious amount of force,” said Niskanen. “A collision was gonna happen there in the crease. When the play first starts, I think my stick is at about his arm level. Right about where the numbers are on the side of his jersey. Because he’s trying to make a play, he’s getting lower and lower, because he’s getting pressured trying to score. So the collision happened.”

Penguins forward Chris Kunitz, naturally, saw it a completely different way.

“It’s obviously gut-wrenching,” said Kunitz.

“A guy that is the best player in the world, playing in his prime, just dominating games. It’s one of those things that you look at it once and you see what actually happened and I think the next thing is watching how it deliberate it was when the guy cross-checks him in the face. I thought all of that was kind of out of our league, but I guess not.”

He also added, “I like Nisky as a person, but I don’t think it’s a very nice hit. I don’t think it’s something this game is looking for.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz called it a “hockey play,” and said it was unfortunate that Crosby ended up getting injured as a result of it.

He was then challenged by a reporter asking if the initial hit from Alex Ovechkin that knocked Crosby off balance was also “a hockey play,” resulting in a somewhat testy back-and-forth exchange.

“Was there a penalty?” Said Trotz regarding that portion of the play. “I am not going to defend anything. You want me to defend Alex? Then is Kunitz’s predatory hit on Oshie okay? Or the one on Backstrom? Is that Okay? I am not going to debate all of that stuff.”

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, meanwhile, refused to get involved by saying, “I would rather not share my opinion on that play.”

Sullivan was then asked if it was harder than usual for him to sell his “just play” message after seeing his team’s captain and best player get knocked out of the game.

“No,” said Sullivan. “That’s what this team does. We are going to play the game hard and we are going to do what we can to win hockey games. That is what we did tonight.”

Game 4 of the series is on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

The Penguins hold a 2-1 lead in the series.

Shattenkirk gets Capitals back in series, Penguins lose Crosby and Game 3

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So much for Kevin Shattenkirk being the goat. So much for the Washington Capitals being done for this series.

The Pittsburgh Penguins maintained their run of fighting hard through injuries that would crush lesser teams, in this case with Evgeni Malkin leading an improbable push to overtime in Game 3. It wasn’t enough, however, as Shattenkirk’s 3-2 overtime-clincher decided the contest, shrinking Pittsburgh’s series lead to 2-1.

Marcus Johansson forced Trevor Daley to take a penalty early in overtime, opening the door for Shattenkirk to score the game-winner on the man advantage:

Injury losses could very well hurt far more than the Game 3 defeat, at least if Sidney Crosby‘s issues are as bad as they appeared. It’s plausible that Crosby suffered a lower-body injury or a head injury (or possibly both) thanks to a controversial cross-check by Matt Niskanen.

Both goalies were sharp for much of the game, whether the Pittsburgh crowd wanted to acknowledge that or not with their “Holt-by!” chants.

It was a nasty contest at times, with Conor Sheary also being knocked from the game, in that case being hit accidentally by teammate Patric Hornqvist. T.J. Oshie may also feel a little sore after this one after a Shattenkirk shot him in the face.

Game 3 presented a ton of ups and downs for each side of the squabble. It only seems fitting that Shattenkirk (a player who’s absorbed a ton of blame) ended up scoring a goal that brought new life to a team that tends to get buried for its playoff letdowns.

This wasn’t the prettiest win, but the Capitals are right back in it. In fact, with injuries to Crosby and more, you could argue that Washington regained “favorite” status.

What a difference a game, an injury and a huge goal can make.

Game 4 is on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

2017 Hart Trophy finalists: Bobrovsky, Crosby, McDavid

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The NHL released the three finalists for 2017 Hart Trophy on Monday: Sergei Bobrovsky, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid.

McDavid was the league’s only 100-point scorer in 2016-17, leading the Oilers to their first playoff run in ages. Crosby was dominant from a per-game basis in particular and won the Maurice Richard with 44 goals.

Bobrovsky’s an excellent choice in his own right, depending upon how people view voting goalies as MVPs. His numbers were a clear cut above other netminders as he looks likely to take the Vezina.

As a reminder, the PHWA votes for the award, worded as going to “the player adjudged to
be the most valuable to his team.” (That phrasing can swing some votes at times.)

There were some big names that didn’t make it, including difference-makers like Brent Burns. Even so, these are three excellent choices to represent the most valuable players of 2016-17.

Video: Did Ovechkin miss opportunity to land big hit on Crosby?

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There are a lot of ways to describe Alex Ovechkin‘s on-ice style. One that probably never comes up is “shy.”

He’s one of the most hard-hitting high-scorers in recent memory, but Keith Jones and Mike Milbury noticed a moment where he passed up a potentially huge hit on Sidney Crosby in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ eventual Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals.

Both Jones and Milbury admit that Ovechkin probably made the right choice in the moment, as he a) scored a goal soon after and b) would have been whistled for interference (at minimum?).

Even so, they still wonder if it was really the right choice. Watch that interesting discussion in the video above.

And, in the clip below, something most can agree on: Crosby’s on a roll.

Game 2 is on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).