Washington, D.C. - Naturally, games between the Capitals and Penguins are steeped in storylines and controversy. As Bruce Boudreau said after the Capitals 3-0 win on Super Bowl Sunday "they don't like us [and] we don't like them."
After Sunday's victory, further escalating the rivalry shouldn't be too difficult.
With Washington leading 2-0 in the third period, Alex Ovechkin made a move around Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke, only to find himself on the receiving end of a knee on knee collision. Cooke, who is recognized as one of the NHL's dirtier players, stuck his leg out and sent Ovechkin soaring in his own end.
Ovechkin rose from the ice and went after Cooke as center Nicklas Backstrom quickly came over to help. Cooke was given the gate for tripping, escaping what could have been a five-minute major, plus a game misconduct. Washington's superstar was clearly shaken up following the hit, but skated for part of the ensuing power play.
In his press conference following the game, Boudreau had some harsh words for Cooke, further cementing the latter's status as one the more disliked players in the NHL.
"It's Matt Cooke, OK? Need we say more?" Boudreau said. "I mean it's not like it's his first rodeo. He's done it to everybody and then he goes to the ref and says 'what did I do?' He knows damn well what he did and you know there's no doubt in my mind that he's good at it and he knows how to do it. He knows how to pick this stuff and we as a league, we still buy into this that 'oh, it was an accidental thing.'"
Ovechkin was more subdued in his comments.
"I don't know," he said. "I think he was frustrated, he wants to do something. It's his game. It's OK."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma saw the incident in a different light. From Katie Carrera of the Washington Post:
"I didn't think much contact was made. Maybe their skates get wound up together. But, you know, Ovechkin was out on the ensuing power play."
Cooke himself was of like mind.
"I just tracked the puck and he tried to cut back on me. We clipped skates."
There's no love lost between these two teams and as the postseason draws closer, the hatred could intensify. Washington has one more regular season tilt with the Penguins in Pittsburgh on February 21st and currently the two clubs are on track to play each other in the first round of the playoffs as the fourth (Pittsburgh) and fifth (Washington) seeds.
H/T to @wyshynski for the Ovechkin quote.