PITTSBURGH - Only one game into the NHL's Eastern Conference semifinal between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins and already the heat is rising.
Penguins head coach Michel Therrien came out swinging after Saturday's practice, saying he was tired of hearing from the Rangers camp what he believed were insinuations that Sidney Crosby was diving to draw penalties.
"Enough is enough, that's enough," Therrien fumed ahead of Sunday's Game 2.
Crosby, who was outstanding in Game 1, drew an interference penalty from Rangers forward Martin Straka that led to the winning goal on a power play with 1:41 to go Friday night as the Penguins won 5-4.
"Where I'm kind of disappointed, there was gamesmanship happening before the series about Sidney drawing penalties," Therrien charged at the beginning of a three-minute rant. "I'm disappointed, this is a star player that plays in traffic, a powerful skater. When a star player like this goes into traffic and plays in traffic, well he's going to draw a penalty.
"We all know what Tom Renney was trying to do before the series and I see his comment today ... He tries to give attention to the referees and complaining about the penalty at the end of the game last night. As far as I'm concerned and we're all concerned, it was not even close."
Renney seemed surprised to hear of Therrien's comments.
"I don't recall ever suggesting Sidney himself was an issue," said the Rangers coach. "What I do recall suggesting is that before every series you meet with the supervisor of officiating and you talk about the rules of the game in general. Certainly last night, I think by my answers, I didn't suggest anyone was outside of the rules of the game. I left that for others to conclude. We're worried about winning this series."
There's some history to this touchy subject. The Rangers privately felt Crosby was embellishing calls during a game between the teams March 30. It was brought up again by writers Thursday in New York after practice and Renney simply said he would make sure to talk to the series supervisor.
No. 87 was not amused when the matter first came up Friday.
"I haven't changed one bit. I never dove and I don't dive now," Crosby said. "If I go down, it's because I've been forced down. I'll do whatever I can to stay on my feet. I think he (Renney) should be the one worried about diving."
It doesn't seem logical to think that Crosby would have dived Friday night on the Straka call. Crosby would have raced away on a 2-on-1 break had he not been slowed down by Straka.
"Yesterday on that play, to try and get a step on it, if he didn't get hooked, we're probably going to go on a breakaway," said Therrien. "He drew a penalty. I'm kind of disappointed he (Renney) complained about it."
Renney said Saturday that the Straka penalty was old news.
"It's gone, we can't do anything about that," he said. "Our team completely passed over that before we left the dressing room (Friday) night. We felt bad for Marty because he's a pretty straight-up player. But those things happen. I'm certainly not suggesting that it wasn't a penalty."
Veteran Rangers star Brendan Shanahan had a unique perspective on the Crosby controversy.
"The guys in this room respect him, and the way he plays hard," said Shanahan. "He's around the puck a lot, and he makes second and third efforts that are going to sometimes drop him down to his knees, and that's just the way he plays. I don't think he's necessarily diving, but he's the kind of player that will dive for loose pucks, and I think he plays an all-out, all-effort style that sometimes referees can confuse with someone fouling him."
Shanahan said there was never talk in his dressing room after Game 1 about Crosby's role in the Straka call.
"I think the only thing our team did last night was defend Martin Straka," said Shanahan. "But we certainly didn't come into the room after the game and throw down our equipment and say we got hosed by the refs. So I'm kind of surprised that Therrien is making it a big issue today, because we aren't ...
"If he wants to bring the referees' attention to it, fine."
In the meantime, both teams agreed on one thing - the ice was terrible in Game 1. NHL ice guru Dan Craig flew in Saturday and went to work on it.
"It's pretty soft," Crosby said Saturday. "It's not an easy job with so many people in the building and it being so hot. I'm sure they're doing everything they can to make it the best possible."