See what had the Rangers' coach so enraged


See what had the Rangers' coach so enraged

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins reached a milestone, sewed up home-ice advantage when the playoffs start and drew the ire of another divisional opponent on a busy Thursday night. Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves to tie the Pittsburgh franchise record for wins and the Penguins clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Pittsburgh earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference for the fourth consecutive season and will play the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. It was in the aftermath of a 6-4 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called Penguins counterpart Dan Bylsma "gutless" and Philadelphia forward Daniel Briere said Joe Vitale was "trying to hurt me" after a late-game check. After Thursday's game, Rangers coach John Tortorella was even more scathing, calling the Penguins "one of the most arrogant organizations in the league" during a profanity-laden tirade following Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik's knee-to-knee hit on New York center Derek Stepan. "It's a cheap, dirty hit," Tortorella said. "I wonder what would happen if we did it to their two whining stars over there. I wonder what would happen. So I'm anxious to see what happens with the league with this. Just not respect amongst players. None. It's sickening." Orpik was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct on the play. "They whine about this stuff all of the time, and look what happens?" Tortorella said. "It's ridiculous. But they'll whine about something else over there, won't they?" One of those stars Tortorella was referring to, Evgeni Malkin, had his 49th goal Thursday. He added an assist to give him 107 points and extend his lead on Steven Stamkos in the scoring race to 11 points with one game to play. Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang also each had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh. Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov scored for the Rangers, who were playing for the first time since clinching the top seed in the conference. New York and Vancouver Canucks, which lost in regulation, are tied for the most points in the NHL (109). New York rested Henrik Lundqvist for the first time in 11 games after he sustained a swollen right forearm during Tuesday's victory against Philadelphia. Lundqvist said after the morning skate that if the game was crucial that he would have played. The Rangers gave no update on the condition of Stepan, who remained on the bench but did not play after the hit from Orpik. Bylsma compared the hit to one Letang received from Dallas' Eric Nystrom last month. Nystrom was not fined or suspended by the league. "You see here where (Stepan) jumps out of the way and Brooks is on his track and looking to hit the guy at an angle, and he trying to get out of the way creates that scenario," Bylsma said. Orpik was not available to reporters after the game. Almost lost in the postgame insults was Fleury tying Tom Barrasso with his 226th victory for the Penguins. Fleury's 42nd win of the season is one behind the Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne for the league lead. "A great honor for me to catch up to a guy like that who's been on top and won a couple Stanley Cups," Fleury said. Kunitz picked up his 200th assist on Malkin's 49th goal with 10:54 left that elicited chants of "M-V-P" from the Penguins' 250th consecutive sellout crowd. Pascal Dupuis assisted on Richard Park's second-period goal to his point streak to 16 games, longest in the NHL this season. Tyler Kennedy also scored for the Penguins (50-25-6), who reached 50 wins for the second time in franchise history. But the Rangers had little to play for other than possibly winning their first Presidents' Trophy since 1993-94 or to make runs over their final two games at breaking team records for wins and points established during that Stanley Cup season. New York was clearly not pleased at perhaps losing their fourth-leading goal-scorer in Stepan in what was a virtually meaningless game. "It was pretty gutless and dirty, and (Orpik) is known for sticking his knee out and his elbow out," Rangers goalie Martin Biron said. "I don't really care what he says in defense of what he did, it was dirty. "It was what (Orpik's) done all his career, and he's going to continue to do that unless somebody just gets him either with a suspension or whatever. Those are hits that aren't going to be in the game much longer because it's very dangerous." Kunitz's career-high 25th goal came at 1:11 of the first. Dubinsky tied it 3:12 later when he slammed home a rebound of a Ruslan Fedotenko shot, his 10th, but Kennedy gave Pittsburgh the lead for good 8:27 into the game with his 11th of the season and fifth in his past 10 games. Park -- in the lineup only because wingers James Neal and Steve Sullivan were not because of lower-body injuries -- made it 3-1 with his seventh at 5:11 of the second. Anisimov's goal came during a five-minute power play with 2:14 left, but Letang answered with an empty-netter at 19:11. The Penguins beat the Rangers for the fourth consecutive time this season and won for the third time in their past four games. "Both teams played pretty hard to make sure they're playing good playoff hockey going into the playoffs," Crosby said. NOTES: The game was the 500th of Biron's career. He's won only 13 of 35 career decisions against Pittsburgh. ... The Penguins announced their season team awards throughout the game during stoppages. Malkin was selected most valuable player. ... The announced crowd of 18,585 set a new Penguins season attendance record of 742,608 -- with one game remaining. ... The Rangers had won their previous four on the road and five of their previous six in Pittsburgh. ... When leading after two periods, the Penguins are 31-0-3 this season. ... Pittsburgh D Matt Niskanen (upper-body injury) did not play.

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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