Color Scott Hartnell and Peter Laviolette among those who had no problem with what was a wild and woolly Game 3 in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal between their Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In fact, Hartnell said the first period -- one that included a rare fight involving Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby and top Flyers offensive star Claude Giroux and another fight between Flyers skilled defenseman Kimmo Timonen and the Pens’ Kris Letang -- was one of the best periods of hockey in which he’s been involved.
“The goals, the scraps, Kimmo dropping the gloves. In 12 years, I haven’t seen that guy with a heartbeat over 140 -- and the guy’s out there with a tough guy like Letang. It’s great to see,” Hartnell said.
Laviolette, the Flyers’ head coach, likewise said he received many comments after the game from friends and acquaintances, some from the hockey world, some not, telling him how much they enjoyed the contest.
“If you’re just a fan of the sport, just from an enjoyment level of watching a game of hockey, it was great," Laviolette said. "It was back and forth, it was toe to toe, there were fights, there [were] goals, it was great. I had a lot of texts, people just texting me saying it was of the best games if not the best game they’d ever seen."
The one element of the game Hartnell, he of the distinctive curly locks, didn’t appreciate was having one of the Penguins tug on his hair during one of the late-game grappling sessions.
“I don’t know what the rule is in the NHL rulebook about hair pulling, but maybe I should look into it. Letang has got some nice hair over there on the other team and I’m sure he would like it if somebody pulled his hair. I’m guessing I’m going to have to call Shanny about that,” Hartnell said with a grin, referencing the NHL’s head of discipline, Brendan Shanahan, who has his hands full trying to keep up with the potentially suspension-worthy events that have cropped up in recent days.
Flyers happy to be hated
Much was made of Crosby’s comments after Game 3 about how he doesn’t like any of the Flyers and specifically Jakub Voracek, whose glove he shot away as the Flyers forward was about to retrieve it late in the game.
"I guess we've got to be doing something right if he hates us, right?" offered the playoff’s leading point-getter, Claude Giroux, who has eight points in the three games, including a franchise-record six in Game 2.
How does Giroux feel about his opponents?
"Well, with the first three games it's got to be hard to like them," Giroux said. "Obviously we're not big fans of them and that's why this series is so entertaining for the fans."
Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma viewed Crosby’s engaging with Flyers players as a premeditated effort to try to keep his team motivated as opposed to Crosby losing his focus.
“I think a little bit of what we saw yesterday was him trying to spark our team and trying to get back in this thing and scratch and claw to do it," Bylsma said. "I think that’s a lot of what I saw from him and more calculated than losing emotional control.
“That’s a little bit of the emotion I saw yesterday from our captain."