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Penguins hold strong against Lightning, take 2-1 series lead; Kunitz suspension coming?

Apr 19, 2011, 12:09 AM EDT

Tyler Kennedy AP

It wasn’t pretty and there will be a lot of things aside from the game that will be discussed aside from the game, but Pittsburgh earned a huge Game 3 win in a rough game with Tampa Bay taking out the Lightning 3-2 and taking a 2-1 series lead.

Despite the Lightning getting a pair of power play goals from Martin St. Louis, Tyler Kennedy‘s early third period goal broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Penguins a big win to take back home ice advantage in the series. Marc-Andre Fleury stood tall in this game making 25 saves and again providing the Penguins with the steady play in goal they needed to win.

What’s going to be talked about most in this game are a pair of dirty hits, one from each team. Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz caught Simon Gagne in the back of the head with a targeted and very purposeful elbow. Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie caught Pittsburgh defenseman Ben Lovejoy with a leaping blindside check that put Lovejoy down on the ice. Expect both players to hear from the NHL in one way or another and certainly expect to see both of them get hit with a suspension.

The Versus panel of Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick discuss Kunitz’s elbow on Gagne after highlights of the game.

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As for Downie’s hit, it took place just before Maxime Talbot scored the first goal of the game and it was a thundering blow.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported tonight that both Kunitz and Steve Downie will have disciplinary hearings with the NHL tomorrow morning to decide what, if anything, will happen to them going forward.

That extracurricular stuff aside, the series has been just what we were expecting it to be: A tight-checking, physically demanding and close series. Both teams are rolling with strategies that make their coaches look more like chessmasters than head coaches. Figuring out ways to break each other down and expose weaknesses has become as big a priority for both Dan Bylsma and Guy Boucher as lineup management is.

Scoring isn’t easy in this series and figuring out ways to make life better for their offense requires sneaky strategy. They’ll need to be more on the ball in Game 4 as both teams will likely have to make a lineup change with the nonsense from Kunitz and Downie.

What do you think Kunitz’s punishment will be for his elbow on Simon Gagne? Will he escape punishment the way Raffi Torres did or is he going away for a while? Let us know in our poll.

  1. stakex - Apr 19, 2011 at 2:04 AM

    Kunitz is looking at at least 2 games for that elbow. I base that on several facts:

    1. It was an elbow intentionaly directed at the head
    2. It was from the blind side
    3. It was nowhere near the play
    4. Hard to argue that there was anything but intent to injure with such a hit, especially so far from the play

    If that doesn’t scream suspension, I don’t know what does. If this wasn’t the playoffs it would easily be a 4-8 gamer…. but this being the playoffs, its probably going to be 2 games. With that said, I wouldn’t be shocked it it was more, perhaps even the rest of the series… but thats doubtful.

    Can’t comment on the other hit because I didn’t see it.

    • abrienza428 - Apr 19, 2011 at 7:56 AM

      Watch the video of it that’s embedded in the article then

      • stakex - Apr 19, 2011 at 12:35 PM

        When I wrote that, only the video of the Kunitz hit was there. The highlight video was added afterwards….

    • stakex - Apr 19, 2011 at 12:39 PM

      After having watched the Downie’s hit, I doubt there will be any action taken. Yes he left his feet a little bit, but it wasn’t a headshot nor was it from the blindside. He might see a fine because he lefth is feet, but thats about it… almost certainly no suspension.

  2. ihateannouncers - Apr 19, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    If they didn’t suspend Torres they won’t suspend Downie, which I believe is correct. Kunitz on the other hand should be suspended. There was absolutely no reason for the obvious elbow and he should have his backside kicked by Bylsma for putting his team in this situation. It was a selfish stupid play!!

    • balewsquare - Apr 19, 2011 at 11:10 AM

      I agree. I think Torres wasn’t suspended because the NHL essentially wants Seabrook to keep his head up in that situation, which Lovejoy did a horrible job of here. The only thing is how dirty the NHL thinks the charge was, but they didn’t seem to care about Torres’ interference. Why do players feel the need for these dirty hits? Especially in the playoffs I thought it would die down, like fighting does. You have something much more team-oriented to play for in these games…

    • ihateannouncers - Apr 19, 2011 at 7:09 PM

      So much for deductive fooled me again Colin Campbell…1 game each..

  3. balewsquare - Apr 19, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    If I’m in charge, I throw the book at Kunitz. No question. This is exactly what the NHL wants out of the game. Everything is wrong with it: blind side, elbow, and an east/west hit. The only thing he didn’t match was “principal” contact to the head, as this was “only” contact to the head. Luckily, Gagne escaped major injury, but the intent is indefensible. This can’t be blamed on a fast play either, as it was rather slow and Kunitz adjusted to make sure his elbow lined up with Gagne’s head.

    I say he’s gone for at least the series. Colin Campbell says “Simon, keep your head up when your skating backwards without the puck on your stick.”

  4. jpelle82 - Apr 19, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    blatant disregard for other player’s safety…as a penguins fan i am disgusted. sad. pens are gonna need him bad. i cant believe he didnt get a match penalty for it…he was standing in front of the net on the game winning goal too….if i were a tampa fan i would be pissed.

    • balewsquare - Apr 19, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      I too was wondering how TB fans would feel. A lot of people were upset about the Hossa OT goal in Game 5 vs NSH last year. To me, this is the most obvious Rule 48 violation, and I also can’t understand how the ref 15 feet away didn’t throw him out right then and there.

      • jpelle82 - Apr 19, 2011 at 1:42 PM

        this was as bad or worse than cooke’s elbow. kunitz isnt cooke though but he should def get a couple games

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