PITTSBURGH – The Matt Cooke storyline in the Eastern Conference Final got amplified in Game 1 on Saturday night.
Cooke was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind, his first major penalty since the 2010-11 season.
McQuaid stayed down for a few moments as he composed himself while the Bruins went after Cooke and looked to be somewhat disoriented. He got back on his feet before taking a knee again as a Bruins trainer attended to him before getting back up and leaving for the dressing room. He returned to Boston's bench a few minutes later and finished the game, playing a regular shift from the midpoint of the second period onward.
Cooke declined to speak to the media after the game, but his teammates and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma did not feel the major and game misconduct penalties were warranted, though no one disputed the hit was indeed a penalty.
"Clearly it's a hit right through the numbers," Bylsma said. "I don't think it was a rough hit. I think he was going into the boards; it was right from the numbers. I'm not sure I thought it warranted a five-minute penalty. But, you know, he did come right behind the guy, was going in with the guy. There you have it."
The penalty played a big role in the game.
The Penguins had thoroughly controlled the play up to that point even though they were down 1-0, and killing what turned out to be a three-minute Bruins power play after Chris Kelly was called for roughing for going after Cooke.
"I don't see the difference, really," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "[Neal] doesn't go directly into the boards, I don't think. I don't think it's quite as straight on as [Cooke].
"McQuaid was able to get up pretty quick, I thought. I didn't see him hit his head on the glass. I don't think it was a great hit, don't get me wrong, he's got his back turned and it's a board."
Cooke, of course, has a reputation that precedes him.
All week as both the Bruins and Penguins waited to get this series started, the talk of Cooke's hit that essentially ended the career of Boston center Marc Savard was a major talking point.
However, Cooke has cleaned up his game considerably over the past two seasons to become an important penalty-killer and checker for the Penguins, one that was sorely missed for nearly two full periods Saturday.
Crosby was asked if he felt the major penalty and game misconduct were based on reputation more than anything else.
"I don't want to say that, to be honest with you," Crosby said. "I think that we all know the history with [Cooke] and it's going to be looked at and scrutinized a lot more because it's him, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's a penalty because it's [Cooke]. I think if it's anyone it's a penalty; the fact it's a match, I think that's kind of up for debate though."
But while the Penguins were generally in disagreement over the severity of the penalty, they also feel it was not necessarily the reason they lost the game and it would probably be best if they focused on that instead.
"I don't think there's any point in wasting time on that," Pittsburgh forward Jarome Iginla said. "It's about getting back next game."