Dion Phaneuf’s ill-advised pinch at Boston’s blue-line led to the Bruins’ winning goal in Game 4 and his jousting with Milan Lucic cued the Toronto Maple Leafs’ meltdown in a Game 7 overtime loss.
So says Don Cherry.
The Hockey Night in Canada personality suggested Tuesday night that Phaneuf should have let a sleepy bear lie as Lucic was rather ordinary in his play for two periods.
Both players exchanged some shots, with Phaneuf tapping Lucic’s skate as the Bruins’ six-foot-three, 230-pound left-winger skated away. Lucic turned around and got in Phaneuf’s face and quickly headed to the penalty box after being assessed a roughing minor at 13:02 of the second period.
At that time, Cherry said he turned to Hockey Night host Ron MacLean and said of Lucic: "Look out now, he’s going to go [step up his game]."
Two minutes into the third, Lucic was victimized on Phil Kessel’s goal that gave the Leafs a 3-1 advantage. Nazem Kadri made it 4-1 less than four minutes later.
Enter Lucic, who had managed just a goal and five shots in the previous three games of the series after posting six assists, a plus-5 rating and nine shots in Games 1-3.
'Did they choke? They did not choke. They played the best they can.'— Don Cherry on Leafs blowing 4-1 lead in Game 7
Lucic began to dominate Toronto physically and set up Nathan Horton’s fourth goal of these playoffs at 9:18 of the period. A little more than nine minutes later, he wristed a shot past goalie James Reimer to cut the Leafs’ lead to 4-3 and give Boston the momentum it needed to draw even with 51 seconds left in regulation.
Patrice Bergeron, the man who tied the game, won it for the Bruins in overtime, firing the puck into an open net at 6:05 and sending Boston to a Round 2 matchup against the New York Rangers.
"Did they choke?" said Cherry of the young Maple Leafs players. "They did not choke. They played the best they can. Did they lay back? No.
"They [Bruins] go as Lucic goes. This guy is a monster, believe me. He [was] playing all right. You never [rile up players like Lucic], just let them go. [The Leafs’ not doing so was the] difference [in Game 7].
"We should be proud [of the Leafs]," Cherry said. "Everybody should be proud of them."
Cooke lifts skate again
Meanwhile in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, it took all of three minutes for Penguins forward Matt Cooke to check Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson into the end boards during Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.
On the play, Cooke lifted his left skate, the same skate that cut Karlsson’s left Achilles tendon during a Feb. 13 game in Pittsburgh, resulting in a 70 per cent cut and 10 weeks on injured reserve.
"You know what that tells me?" said Cherry of Cooke lifting his skate Tuesday. "I will never believe … that a human being would take his skate and cut a guy in the back [of the leg]. That tells me that’s how [Cooke] hits.
"When he hits, he brings up that left leg. I’m not protecting him because what he did to [Boston centre Marc] Savard I’ll never forgive him."
On March 7, 2010, Cooke concussed Savard with a blindside hit. Savard dealt with concussion symptoms and depression for some time and probably will never play another NHL game.