Pittsburgh Penguins: Opponents Using Intimidation Against Sidney Crosby and Co.

Matt GajtkaCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2010

Buffalo's Mike Weber takes physical liberties with Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby.
Buffalo's Mike Weber takes physical liberties with Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins' winning streak has reached the rare length of 12 games entering Tuesday's game in Philadelphia, it's no secret that opponents are searching for any way to discombobulate the NHL's current top team.

Last Wednesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs may have inadvertently stumbled upon the method du jour for trying to halt the Penguins' runaway train: physical intimidation.

With the Penguins up 4-0 after two periods at home and controlling every facet of the game, the Leafs skated out for the third in a foul mood, perhaps partially inspired by a dressing room tirade from coach Ron Wilson.

Just moments into the final frame, Toronto's Jay Rosehill attempted to deliver a lunging shoulder check to Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, but missed as Crosby stepped aside at the last possible second.

The damage wasn't done, but the intent was noticed by Penguins enforcer Eric Godard, who challenged Rosehill to a fight at first opportunity.

The resulting scrum put the Leafs on a four-minute power play, on which they capitalized to break the shutout and derive energy for a potential comeback.

Toronto eventually drew within two with 10 minutes remaining before Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made a handful of excellent saves to help close out a 5-2 win.

The Penguins collected the two points to extend their winning streak to 11, but the Buffalo Sabres certainly took notice in how the Leafs distracted the Penguins by taking a run or two at Crosby, the NHL's scoring leader, who has registered at least a point in 18 consecutive matches.

When Buffalo and Pittsburgh collided last Saturday, Sabres defenseman Mike Weber, ironically a native of western Pennsylvania, took the initiative to rough-up No. 87 with his team trailing 2-1 in the second period.

After the two battled for a puck in front of the Buffalo net, Weber and Crosby got tangled along the left wing boards, eventually escalating to Weber slamming his gloved hand into Crosby's face several times before Chris Kunitz jumped onto the 6'1" blueliner, defending his prolific linemate.

Unlike the game against Toronto, the Penguins didn't cede command of the momentum following the scuffle, as they eventually ground out a 5-2 win—their franchise-best seventh straight triumph on the road.

Media reports after the contest indicated that Crosby told his teammates during the second intermission to focus on winning the game, not settling scores; the temptation remained, though, as Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers nearly clobbered Crosby at center ice early in the third.

Max Talbot was drilled later in the frame on a questionable hit by Jason Pominville, further increasing the temperature of an already testy night in western New York.

But as mentioned, the Penguins kept their emotions from running wild and now head into back-to-back divisional matchups with the Flyers and the Rangers this week, sure to face additional physicality from those two rivals.

If the results of the past two games are to be trusted, perhaps intimidation isn't the track to take for opponents seeking to halt the Penguins' ascent.

That doesn't mean they'll stop trying it.