Jack Capuano had his say, but Game 3 overtime hero – or villain, depending on your perspective – Brian Boyle will not be disciplined by the NHL for the overtime check on Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey that preceded his game-winning goal Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
A league source confirmed Boyle was not subject to a hearing with NHL’s Department of Player Safety for the hit Capuano and the Isles angrily charged was high and late moments before the former Rangers center scored to give the Lightning a 2-1 series lead entering Friday’s Game 4 in Brooklyn.
“Emotions are high after a game … but I had a chance to watch it and I just feel the hit was high,” Capuano said Wednesday morning on a conference call. “To me, it’s a position where it’s an odd-man rush going the other way, too. It’s one of those calls that (the referee’s) got a split-decision to make. But I’m going to stand by what I said. I thought the hit was high, and it led obviously to a really good scoring chance for them.
“Like I said (Tuesday) night, these guys that are getting suspended for a game or three or whatever it is, it’s a fast game. They’re not playing dirty. They’re trying to finish their checks and do the right things. But when things happen so fast, shoulders, elbows, sticks, they get up and they get up high. To me, just seeing Thomas after the game, bleeding out of his mouth and his cheek, he got hit in the head. So I’m not going to change my opinion on that.”
Capuano offered no update on Hickey’s status for Game 4, but said the defenseman would be seen by the team’s medical staff later on Wednesday. The Isles’ coach also defended Hickey’s thunderous shoulder check that briefly knocked Tampa’s Jonathan Drouin out of the game in the second period.
“When Jonathan Drouin cut to the middle, (Hickey) hit him right in the chest,” Capuano said. “So that’s an open-ice hit. We’ve seen plenty of those and it’s directly right in his chest, where the hit on Thomas Hickey, you can see his head snap back and you can see the shoulder lead and the elbow up into the head area. So totally two different hits. In the angles that I have, it’s not even close.”
The NHL, which levied suspensions against Washington’s Brooks Orpik and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang for head shots earlier in this round, clearly disagreed.
Either way, the Isles must regroup quickly with a chance to even the series on Friday.
“I think it’s important … You have to have a short memory,” Capuano said. “We didn’t get the outcome that obviously we wanted and it was demoralizing you can say, in a way, but at the end of the day they got the goal they needed late in the game and they got the bounce in overtime.”
Speaking of Nikita Kucherov’s game-tying goal with 38.4 seconds in regulation, Capuano defended his decision to have captain John Tavares’ line on the ice in that key defensive situation with Tampa goalie Ben Bishop pulled for an extra attacker.
“We had the two centermen on the ice, with Tavares and (Frans) Nielsen … We had some veteran leadership out there,” Capuano said. “We just didn’t collapse in the middle of the ice there, and they got the goal….We had a couple of icings and you’d like to have those back, but as far as the personnel – the four D and the couple of lines we were rotating through – it’s what we’ve done in the past and had success, so to me there was no reason why we had to change anything.”