- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2017

PITTSBURGH — For a few hours Wednesday morning, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins got caught up in a bizarre game of telephone involving Pittsburgh forward Phil Kessel and Washington center Jay Beagle.

The root of the incident, unsurprisingly, was Matt Niskanen’s hit that took out Sidney Crosby Monday, and it ended with Beagle standing confused in front of his locker, wondering why a hoard of reporters and cameramen wanted to talk to him, of all people.

You see, the day before, Beagle had been asked if he expected the physicality of Game 3 to spill over into Game 4. The question was not specifically related to Niskanen’s hit on Crosby, and Beagle said that the playoffs “should be nasty.”

“That’s the way we like to play, that’s the way they like to play. Hard hits. Going after each other. I mean, these are two teams that don’t like each other,” Beagle said.

On Wednesday, a reporter relayed Beagle’s sentiments to Phil Kessel in a way that seemed to make Kessel think they were somehow related to the hit.

Kessel responded thusly: “Well, if he thinks that’s clean, he’s an idiot.”

Naturally, everyone reacted with precisely zero chill. When Beagle returned to his locker after the Capitals morning skate, he wondered out loud why there were so many people waiting to talk to him. He mentioned that Braden Holtby was also off the ice — why wasn’t everyone looking for him?

Kessel’s comments were relayed to Beagle.

“Ouch,” Beagle said. “That hurts. That’s not very nice, but I guess he said what he said.”

Beagle was asked if he thought the hit was clean.

“No. No. Obviously not. I mean, just like Nisky, he didn’t mean to do it, right? So you know, it obviously wasn’t a clean hit but I do think the playoffs are nasty.”

To recap: Kessel called Beagle an idiot if he thinks the hit was clean. Beagle does not think the hit was clean. Insult moot.

Beagle did have a good idea as to how he and Kessel could sort this all out.

“I mean, it hurts,” he said. “I’m hurt. Deeply. If he wants to settle it, we could always play some ‘Mario Kart.’ He knows where to find me.”

If the NHL has any sense, they’ll find a way to make this happen. All-time halftime entertainment in the making. A no-banana-peels rule would have to be in effect, though. That’s just dirty.

• Nora Princiotti can be reached at nprinciotti@washingtontimes.com.

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