Karlsson injury mars Pens win
Dan Bylsma loved what Matt Cooke brought to the Penguins on Wednesday.
Bylsma witnessed physicality, aggressive forechecking, crease crashing and responsible play with and without the puck.
The Ottawa Senators wanted to hear none of it after a 4-2 loss to the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
This defeat, their second of the season to the Penguins, might have wrecked a promising season in Canada's capital city.
Erik Karlsson, a Norris Trophy-winning 22-year-old defenseman, will require surgery to repair a lacerated left Achilles tendon.
Karlsson was injured during a second-period play for the puck along the boards when Cooke's left skate blade accidentally clipped his calf.
No penalty was called on the play, which was reviewed by the NHL Department of Player Safety in New York. There was nothing illegal about the sequence, sources told the Tribune-Review.
Karlsson was not available for comment, but Senators general manager Bryan Murray and coach Paul MacLean recalled Cooke's past history as a repeat offender of illegal hits when assessing his hit on a player who Ottawa standout goalie Craig Anderson called "irreplaceable."
"We all know who was involved in it," MacLean said. "That's just the way it is."
Added Murray: "It's Matt Cooke. What would I say? Look at the replay."
Bylsma did, and he had no problem with the play.
Facing the boards in the Senators' offensive zone, Karlsson was pinned by Cooke.
Cooke called the cutting of Karlsson "a complete accident."
"I feel terrible," he said. "I'm not trying to do that, obviously. It's happened a few times over the past few years. It's scary.
"I was trying to hit him. Not like that."
Cooke, suspended multiple times over a career that dates to 1998, missed 17 games, including seven playoff contests, to close the 2010-11 season because of supplemental discipline.
However, he has since started the slow process of repairing his reputation as arguably the NHL's dirtiest player.
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, told the Tribune-Review recently that Cooke has "done a great job of showing that a player can change the way they play and be effective."
"I wouldn't say he's wiped out the past," Shanahan said, "but I will say he has done everything you'd like to see from a guy who was in his situation. He's playing the right way."
He played that way while skating the second and third periods on a line with center Evgeni Malkin and right winger James Neal, who scored twice to help the Penguins snap a two-game losing streak.
Neal is among the league leaders with 10 goals.
His first goal was set up by smart power-play reads from captain Sidney Crosby and defenseman Paul Martin.
Crosby recorded his 400th assist on Neal's first marker. With a goal and two assists against the Senators, Crosby is closing in on the NHL scoring lead. He has 20 points.
The Penguins (9-5-0, 18 points) evened their home mark at 3-3-0.
The Senators (7-5-2, 16 points) are 2-4-0 away from Ottawa, and they face possibly playing their final 34 contests without top center Jason Spezza (back) and Karlsson.
Former Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, now with the Senators, lauded Karlsson's ability to "control a game."
Cooke, who assisted on Neal's second goal and the winning marker Wednesday, impacted this Penguins' victory with his trademark brand of controlled aggressiveness, his coach said.
"Might have been his best game, 5-on-5, of the season," Bylsma said.