Head shots take center stage in Game 3
Head shots reared their ugly head in the best-of-seven quarterfinal series between the Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3, and there could be ramifications following the Penguins' 3-2 win.
Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz, not known as a dirty player, launched his elbow into Tampa Bay right wing Simon Gagne's head at the 10:49 mark of the opening period. Kunitz received a two-minute penalty for the infraction, and there appears a chance that he will be hearing from the NHL before Game 4. Gagne, who has endured at least three serious concussions in his career, did not leave the game. He was not pleased with Kunitz.
"I'm sure the league will take a look at it," Gagne said. "We all saw what happened. He went right at my head. The ref asked if I was OK. You see it good on the replay."
Gagne said he was fine following the hit, despite his history with head injuries.
"I feel OK," he said. "That's the only comment I've got right now. You know the league is going to take a long look at that. We all know what the rules are."
Kunitz and Penguins GM Ray Shero declined to comment on the hit.
The rules Gagne mentioned, frankly, seem up for debate.
"It's not up to me (if Kunitz and Tampa Bay right wing Steve Downie play in Game 4)," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Stuff happens quick. Would I be shocked• (Vancouver's) Raffi Torres is playing next game, so I don't think anybody is going to be shocked whichever way it goes. The consensus in our room after not seeing Torres get suspended is there is kind of a big question mark. Guys don't know what is suspendable and what isn't. It's not really clear right now."
Kunitz's hit, of course, wasn't the only notable one in Game 3.
Downie made his presence felt early in the contest and managed to cost his team a goal.
As Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy was clearing a puck behind his own net early in the first period, Downie clearly left his skates, launching himself into Lovejoy. The violent collision was set to earn Downie a penalty, though it wasn't necessary because Max Talbot scored before the Lightning was able to gain possession. A Tampa Bay team official said Downie was in the trainer's room when an interview request was made.
Downie is no stranger to league discipline, and even though he didn't appear to make direct contact with Lovejoy's head, the league will examine the hit, especially given that he left his skates. At just 24, Downie has already been suspended a total of 40 games.
"People can boo me in Pittsburgh if they want," Downie said before the series. "I don't really mind. We have some guys who will mix it up in this room. I'm one of them."
The league said every NHL play in question is reviewed.
Pens vs. Lightning Game 3 04/18/2011
The Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning Bolts 3-2 Monday, April 18, 2011 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
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