NHL Playoffs 2012: James Neal Cheap-Shots Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux

Jason SapunkaCorrespondent IIApril 16, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15: Braydon Coburn #5 of the Philadelphia Flyers and James Neal #18 of the Pittsburgh Penguins collide along the boards in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Penguins 8-4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins showed little class in a Game 3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers that put their team one loss away from elimination.

In addition to Sidney Crosby punching Claude Giroux with a linesman between them, Arron Asham cross-checking Brayden Schenn in the throat, and Craig Adams jumping Scott Hartnell from behind, James Neal took part in two dirty plays.

The first happened with just under 5:30 to play in the third period.

Philadelphia's Sean Couturier touched the puck near the boards (which were to his left), roughly five feet into his offensive zone. He was skating up-ice to Pittsburgh's end when the play occurred. The puck went deeper into the Philadelphia zone after he touched it.

At this point, Neal was skating toward the Pittsburgh end of the ice at the blue line in the center of the ice.

Couturier glided out of his zone and looked back at play. A full two seconds after he made contact with the puck, Neal leapt into him, hitting him high in the chest and sending Couturier down to the ice.

Not only was this a very late hit, Neal leaving his feet made it dirty, regardless of where the puck was. Neal had plenty of time to avoid Couturier, but skated right at him instead.

A little over 40 seconds later, the Penguins forward went after Giroux.

Giroux was in his offensive zone at the right faceoff circle, facing across ice. Neal came from outside of the zone toward Giroux.

Neal not only aimed his left elbow at Giroux's head, but left the ice as well—again. Had Giroux not ducked under the attempted cheap shot, the Flyers could have a disaster on their hands with an injured superstar.

Giroux missed time earlier this season due to a concussion; Neal aiming at his head with an elbow is completely irresponsible.

Does Neal want the Flyers aiming elbows at the head of Sidney Crosby? Because that's the only fair way for Philadelphia to respond his cheap-shot attempt.

Hartnell told  reporters after the game,

"They were going after a couple of our guys' heads. It's scary when it comes down to that level," he said. "You ask the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby, what they're thinking over there: 'That's playoff hockey?'

"For me, that's not playoff hockey, that is dangerous hockey. They were just trying to hurt people."

The Penguins were pathetically cheap in the game that may very well seal a first-round exit this year.

The NHL has been very strange in their supplementary discipline decisions this postseason (even the New York Rangers say so), but it would be absurd for the Penguins to escape this game without at least one suspension.


Jason Sapunka covers the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers. He is available on Twitter for updates, analysis and commentary.