Matt Cooke Rears His Ugly Head; Leads to Big Road Win for the New York Rangers

Kevin StewartContributor IMarch 20, 2011

Matt Cooke suspended 4 games following this hit on Columbus' Fedor Tyutin on Feb. 8
Matt Cooke suspended 4 games following this hit on Columbus' Fedor Tyutin on Feb. 8Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In a game that was evenly matched for the first 45 minutes, it was a familiar foe that changed the entire complexion.

Early in the third period, NHL bad boy Matt Cooke caught Rangers rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh with a flying elbow along the boards. Cooke was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

On the ensuing penalty kill, Chris Kunitz roofed one over Henrik Lundqvist for the go-ahead goal to make it 2-1. Shortly after, Matt Niskanen caught Ryan Callahan with a high-stick and was issued a double minor. The Rangers immediately took advantage.

Marion Gaborik scored off a rebound and 11 seconds later, Rangers should-be captain Ryan Callahan scored from an impossible angle to give the Blueshirts a quick lead. They'd add late goals by Derek Stepan and Brandon Dubinsky who scored on a empty net.

The Penguins loss can be immediately blamed on Cooke, who is a repeat offender. Remember last season he cheap-shotted Bruins forward Marc Savard knocking him out for an extended period of time.

Let's not also forget just over a month ago, Cooke charged into Columbus' Fedor Tyutin in the corner with Tyutin's back to the play. Cooke was given a four-game suspension and most hockey writers thought the punishment was not enough.

This is the time for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to stand up and send a message to Cooke by suspending him for at least 10 games. TSN panelists quickly tweeted in argument for a lengthy suspension and ESPN's E.J. Hradek said anything less than eight to 10 would be an "embarrassment for the league." He couldn't be more right.

Hockey is without question a violent sport and unfortunate accidents have occurred, most recently Boston's Zdeno Chara leveling Montreal's Max Pacioretty into the stanchion at center ice (Pacioretty hinted that he may not play hockey again). Chara was not issued a suspension as the play happened so quick and bad intent did not seem to be in the play.

Cooke continues to tarnish is already bad reputation with inexcusable offenses like the one committed Sunday afternoon. All we can do is wait for Bettman's decision.