Mike Sullivan said that the hit by Brooks Orpik on Olli Maatta in the opening minutes of Game 2 of the second-round playoff series between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday was “type of hit that everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”
Maatta, in transition, took a shot from the top of the left circle at 4:12 of the Penguins’ eventual 2-1 victory and had glided to the bottom of the circle when he made contact with Orpik. Maatta had come to a stop, but the Capitals defenseman finished his hit and appeared to strike Maatta in the head with his left shoulder.
The Penguins defenseman immediately fell to the ice, landing directly on his back, with his arms outstretched to his left. Orpik was immediately whistled for interference, and Maatta, who had apparently sustained a concussion, remained on the ice for some time before he could be helped off and to the dressing room.
Sullivan, the Penguins’ coach, said that it was a late hit and that he thought Orpik targeted Maatta’s head. Maatta did not return to the game, and Sullivan said that the defenseman would require further evaluation before making a determination on his status going forward.
“I didn’t see the replay, but it looked bad right away,” said Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who was not on the ice for the play.
When asked if it was a dirty hit, Crosby replied, “It looked bad. You can word it how you want. It didn’t look good.”
The team did not permit Orpik to speak to reporters after the game, and a team spokesman would not give a reason why. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said that he spoke with Orpik about the hit, and Orpik told him that he believed Mattaa was going to get the rebound of his shot, which he didn’t see, in the left corner.
“His intention, with the way the puck was shot, and it looked like there was a rebound,” Trotz said. “He thought it was coming back over there, and he just finished on a hit. There’s a little size difference, and I think Maatta was leaning over a little bit. We’ll let the league handle it.”
The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Orpik, coincidentally, missed three games of the Capitals’ first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers after sustaining a concussion. Maatta, who is listed as an inch shorter and 20 pounds lighter, missed 15 games this season with an unspecified lower-body injury, including the five games of the first-round series against the New York Rangers.
Pittsburgh had to play the remainder of the game with five defensemen, requiring a constant shuffling of the pairs by assistant coach Jacques Martin. Kris Letang played 35:22, the most ice time he has seen in a regular-season or playoff game in his career, including 26:45 at even strength.
“It’s tough, especially when you’re a team that wants to play fast and get your D in the rush,” said Letang, who was in the penalty box for the Capitals’ lone goal. “It was tough, but I think we did a great job overall.”
Orpik will likely have a hearing with the league’s department of player safety for the hit, which should happen by telephone on Sunday. Any decision on supplemental discipline would be issued that day, giving the Capitals enough time to prepare for any potential suspension in advance of Game 3 in Pittsburgh on Monday.
“If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean,” Trotz said. “He’s not a dirty player. The Pittsburgh people know that. He plays the game hard, but the right way. Whatever the league decides, we’ll just deal with it.”