On Saturday night another chapter was written in what has developed into an intense rivalry between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This rivalry started to take shape early in the season, when Capitals young gun Alex Semin spoke his mind in saying some controversial comments regarding Penguins captain and league superstar Sidney Crosby.
“What’s so special about (Crosby)?” Semin said about the 2001 first overall pick, who is coming off a 103-point season.
“I don’t see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, a good pass....I think that if you take any player, even if he is ‘dead wood,’ and start promoting him, you’ll get a star. Especially if he scores 100 points.”
This rivalry became even more intense on October 16th at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, when Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin took several runs at his Russian comrade and Pens' top scorer Evgeni Malkin. In every single regular season game, Ovechkin seemed determined to put his former teammate at the 2006 Olympics through the boards.
Rumors quickly began to surface that there was a feud simmering after Ovechkin allegedly punched Malkin’s agent at a Russian nightclub back in 2007. “Yes, bad situation,” Malkin commented when asked about it.
"Good time, good friends, good talk.” Malkin described his relationship with Ovechkin from years back. “Now, it’s so-so.”
During the opening period of game four on Saturday, this heated rivalry got more intense when Penguins veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar badly injured his knee when he collided with Ovechkin knee on knee.
On the play, Gonchar, who missed most of the season due to injury, was coming out of his own end and ran into Ovechkin, who according to the Penguins, stuck out his right knee to intentionally injure the Pens' best defenseman.
To the astonishment of the Penguins and Gonchar’s agent, JP Barry Ovechkin will not receive a suspension or fine from the league.
“We now have Exhibit A of the extreme double standard that exists in the NHL’s approach to discipline,” said Barry. “Alex clearly cuts back with his knee after missing his check with devastating results. But of course, because it’s Alex, it’s all Sergei’s fault.”
Gonchar, who has enjoyed a stellar playoff performance with nine points and a plus-one rating in 10 games, could be gone for the entire playoffs.