Unlike the hit-from-behind
he put on Boston Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid on Saturday night, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke faced his day-after interrogation session with reporters head-on.
"It's a great relief because I want to be out there on the ice helping this team, not sitting in this dressing room worrying about winning or losing. I've been in that situation before and it's no fun. I'm just thankful I can go tomorrow night," said Cooke, who has tried to reform his ways since he was suspended for the last 10 games of the 2010-11 regular season and the first round of the playoffs after he elbowed New York Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh in the head in a March 2011 game.
"I chipped the puck in early, just after the red line. I had quite a bit of interference run from [Bruins defenceman Torey] Krug, which pushed me inside. But after I got by [Krug], I see [McQuaid's] right shoulder and he looks me right in the eyes.
"I think at the last minute he goes to make a reverse with the puck, but I already had committed to hit him. I don't drive him through the boards. I make contact. I think it's a penalty, but I don't think it's an ejection or a suspension. But that's my opinion."
Did Cooke's reputation play into the call from referees Brad Watson and Chris Rooney?
"I don't believe in that at all," Cooke said. "I think the referees try to do the best job they can to call the game and initially it looked like maybe he was hurt, but he played a shift after so I think that probably affected it."
McQuaid gets criticism
There has been some criticism directed toward McQuaid, that he didn't do enough to protect himself. McQuaid was stunned at the suggestion he deserved some blame.
"I don't think anyone wants to put themselves in that position," said McQuaid, who was hit between the numbers, but said the brunt of the hit was his forehead hitting the glass.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien also was asked if players should have more of a responsibility to not put themselves in a vulnerable position.
"I've said it before, and I'm certainly not going to change my mind because it happened to one of our players, but I've always said that we have to educate our players to not put themselves in vulnerable positions," Julien said.
"I'm not talking necessarily about last night, I'm talking about those kind of things that are happening because the rule says you can't hit somebody from behind. Sometimes we take advantage of that rule, and it's dangerous.
"As far as the Cooke situation, I think the referees had to call that. You see his head going into the boards and numbers on numbers. Had to be called. Whether it's a two, whether it's a five, I'm not going to dispute that. But more than that I think they had to make the call."
Julien has no issue with Cooke ruling
Julien went on to remark that he didn't have an issue with no additional suspension for Cooke.
Other than the Penguins losing their third-line left wing early in the second period, the Cooke-on-McQuaid incident did not affect the outcome of the game. The Bruins failed to capitalize on the three-minute power play as the result of the Cooke penalty and roughing minor to Bruins centre Chris Kelly.
The difference was Boston's dynamite playoff performer David Krejci, who scored twice, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who earned his first career playoff shutout, the Bruins dominance in the faceoff circle and the Penguins emotions getting the better of them.
Even Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin wound up fighting Boston's Patrice Bergeron at the end of the second period.
"Anytime you see Evgeni Malkin fighting, he's away from his game," Cooke said. "Emotions were high.
"We hadn't played in eight days. It's a different game than we've seen. It's round three and I think it was an eye opener for us. Expectations of how the games are going to go have to change and I think it's healthy for us. It's good to get it out and we can move forward.
"We need to do a better job managing it. We have to understand it's a tighter game, it's tighter checking. There is not as much space. That's all in the competition of round three. When you expect it you're not going to react quite as aggressive as if you're caught off guard by it."
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