Update, 5:42 p.m.: The NHL announced Friday it has docked Tortorella $20,000 for his comments.
New York Rangers Coach John Tortorella rarely minces his words when he’s upset.
And Thursday night, the fiery leader of the top team in the Eastern Conference was mighty upset after Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik hit Derek Stepan knee to knee late in the Penguins’ 5-2 victory.
After the game, Tortorella went off.
“It’s a cheap, dirty hit,” Tortorella said. “I wonder what would happen if we did that to their two whining stars over there; I wonder what would happen. So I’m anxious to see what happens with the league with this. Just no respect amongst players. None. It’s sickening.”
Four days prior, Penguins forward Joe Vitale hammered Philadelphia Flyers center Daniel Briere with an open ice hit in the game’s final moments. That sparked Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to smash a stick over the glass, stand on the wall of the Philadelphia bench and berate Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma and his staff for several minutes. Vitale’s hit — and Bylsma’s decision to roll out his checking line for the first time in more than 10 minutes — may have been a response to Brayden Schenn’s crosscheck on Sidney Crosby following a whistle earlier in the period. Laviolette was fined $10,000, and the incident only heats up a bitter rivalry that will be front and center in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“It’s pretty cheap,” Crosby said. “He skates 10 feet in between the whistle. I don’t know. If that’s a sign of what’s to come it’s going to be a pretty tough playoff series.”
After the game, NBC analyst Mike Milbury called Crosby “a punk,” a comment for which he later apologized.
“It’s one of the most arrogant organizations in the league,” Tortorella said of the Penguins after Thursday’s loss. “They whine about this stuff all the time, and look what happens.”
Bylsma said Orpik was “definitely trying to get out the way.” Rangers veteran backup goalie Martin Biron disagreed, calling the hit “gutless and dirty.”
“That guy’s known for sticking his knee out and elbow out,” Biron said. “It’s what he’s done all his career. He’s going to continue to do that unless someone gets him with a suspension or whatever.”
Two Penguins, Kris Letang and Deryk Engelland, were suspended for illegal hits this season, and two others were fined (Jordan Staal for boarding and James Neal for a high stick).
One thing is for certain, Saturday’s regular season finale between the Flyers and Penguins will be mighty interesting and quite the appetizer for a first-round series between them.
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