That may have been the scariest thing I've ever personally witnessed on a hockey rink.
For those who didn't see a clip on SportsCenter, Hurricanes right winger Trevor Letowski was knocked unconscious on a hit by Colby Armstrong. It was late in the first, and the Canes were breaking into the Pens' zone. Letowski lost the handle on the puck at the top of the slot, took a stride, and turned right into Armstrong as he was finishing his check. The impact was jaw to shoulder, and Letowski was out cold on impact. To make matters worse, he opened a nasty gash on his forehead when his head hit the ice. None of the newswire reports made mention of it, but it looked from my point of view in the stands like he was having a seizure on the ice. It turned out to be a concussion, not a neck injury, but it looks like he has a long road to go, so good luck to him.
As for the rest of the game…
At one point in the second, I said to my buddy:
We've secretly replaced the Penguins' regular sticks and gloves with lead, granite, and depleted uranium hockey gear. Let's see if they can tell the difference.
The Pens are good for one of these we-can't-handle-the-puck nights a month, and tonight was it. The fans' usual chorus of "Shooooooot!" was useless because Pittsburgh couldn't maintain any excessively long series of passes without at least one clanking off a stick, zinging off in the wrong direction, or getting lost in the receiver's skates.
For some reason, things always end up getting chippy between the Pens and Canes, even though there isn't really a rivalry between the teams. I recall a game in 2003 in which the Pens got shelled early and often, and decided that, if they weren't going to win, they were at least going to take two major penalties per period. That was an ugly loss by any measure. Then there was Brooks Orpik's dirty hit from behind on Erik Cole in their last meeting of last season. I don't think winning a Stanley Cup, with Cole on the ice for games 6 and 7, has completely satiated their thirst for revenge. (Orpik was an injured scratch tonight anyway.) The hit on Letowski didn't appear to be dirty. It looked more like they just made impact at the worst possible angle. Somehow, I doubt that will make a difference when the teams meet again in Raleigh next month. You can't really call it a rivalry when Carolina gets the best of the Pens so often, but there's definitely bad blood brewing.
Final score, Hurricanes 5, Penguins 1, Jocelyn Thibault sightings: 1 (After Fleury got a cut over his eye in the second. Thibault was the better goalie in camp, he deserves a start!)
Stars of the game:
- Scott Walker (2G)
- Ray Whitney (2A)
- Eric Staal (1G)