What the others in the NHL are saying about Matt Cooke’s latest dirty play

Matt Cooke
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By now we’re all well aware of what’s gone on with Matt Cooke with his dirty elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh yesterday and while we await word of how long he’ll be suspended for, others around the league are letting their voices be heard.

The Penguins are in Detroit to take on the Red Wings tonight and while Cooke won’t be playing tonight (more than likely) players from both teams weighed in with their thoughts on what Cooke did yesterday and the résumé he’s built up. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gathered the thoughts of players from both teams today and while some Wings players were more outspoken, Penguins players were reserved with the exception of coach Dan Bylsma.

Bylsma:

“It’s disappointing to see that kind of hit on that situation, given the timing and the circumstances. That’s a hit we don’t want in the game. Considering the time on the clock and in the game that makes it that much more disappointing. It put our team in a bad spot with 10 minutes to go in a 1-1 game.”

Bylsma’s position is tough because he’s got to be the guy to judge where the line is for Cooke between being an effective checking forward and being completely reckless and a detriment to the team. It’s a truly unenviable position.

Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg didn’t hold back in his feelings.

“You have to give him a suspension that will hurt him. You can’t just go 4-5 games. It clearly doesn’t work. You have to set a standard here, especially with what we’ve been going through this year. We just had big meetings with the general managers, the main subject was hits to the head. HEre we go a week later and he goes out and does it again, it’s going to be interesting to see what they’ll do.

“We have to be harder on suspensions. Especially guys who do this over and over again. You gotta be harder on them. But also, it’s about the respect among us players too. We have to respect each other as a player. You can’t go out and hurt a guy like that. It could be career ending.”

As for how long he should sit for, Zetterberg made it clear.

“At least the season. I don’t think he should play any more this year. And then we just have to see what we’re going to do after that.”

New York Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko has been a teammate and an opponent of Cooke’s and even he’s got reservations about what he’s doing out on the ice. Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News heard from Fedotenko and you can sense the conflict he’s got in speaking about him.

“Every player has a style of game, and his style of game is more dirty,” Fedotenko said. “I mean, trying to be in the rules, but pushing the envelope. Trying to hit, and hit hard, and get under the skin to the players. Like I said, that’s his style of game, and in a lot of areas, he’s effective, but when it happens like that – I don’t want to throw him under the bus, but use your head.

“Watch ‘NHL on the Fly’ or any kind of news, it’s been headshots, headshots, headshots. There, clearly – I didn’t see it during the game, but this morning I saw it on the replay, and he was missing the guy, so he just put the elbow right in the head. It was obvious. I don’t know what he can say for that. I don’t know. And with the NHL trying to crack down on it, I’m sure it will be a big issue, especially with what’s happened with his teammate, Crosby, there. So we’ll see what’s gonna come from there.”

It’s that sort of thoughtlessness that Cooke seems to embody through all this that makes most people scratch their heads and get angry at him over what he does on the ice. After all, it’s not as if this new territory for Cooke as his history of questionable and dirty hits is a long one.

His teammates love him for what he can do on the ice and they care for the guy as a man and a friend, but as a teammate he’s a distraction and for a team as banged up as the Penguins are, he’s a negative influence by putting them down a man for minutes at a time and then getting banned by the league. It’s a rough crossroads for the team, but they have to feel as if they’re in the position of having to do something soon to cure their ills.

Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

“It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

“That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

“We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

STREAKING

Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

UP NEXT

Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

UP NEXT

Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

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PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

“The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

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DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

The team announced the news on social media.

MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.