BOSTON – Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are trying to move on from Sunday's heated clash with Philadelphia and turn their focus toward Boston, where they will meet the Bruins in a clash of Eastern Conference powers on Tuesday night.
But there are some in the hockey world that aren't making it easy for the Penguins to put Sunday's late-game mayhem to rest just yet. That includes NBC and CBC analyst Mike Milbury, who launched a verbal assault on Crosby on Monday while appearing on Sports Radio 94 WIP in Philadelphia.
Milbury blamed Crosby for sparking a late-game melee that featured 52 minutes in penalties and opposing coaches climbing up onto the dashers to scream at each other. The donnybrook was touched off by a hit by Pittsburgh forward Joe Vitale on Philadelphia's Danny Briere, but the fuse may have really been lit several minutes earlier when Brayden Schenn cross-checked Crosby.
"Little goody two shoes [Crosby] goes into the corner and gives a shot to Schenn," Milbury said on WIP. "Schenn was late to the party, he should have turned around and drilled him right away, but I guess better late than never.
"So you know, Crosby gets cross-checked, big whoop," Milbury continued. "He said after he came back from his 35th concussion, 'I'm not going to do this anymore, I'm not going to get into this scrums, I'm going to stay away from that stuff.' He couldn't help himself because there's a little punk in Crosby.
"He's not the perfect gentleman. He's not the sweet kid you see in interviews with his hat pulled down over his eyes. I'd say screw him, hit him."
Tuesday after the Penguins' morning skate in Boston, Crosby responded to Milbury's comments.
"I don't really know what he's looking for, if he's looking for attention or, I don't know what it is," Crosby said. "I don't have much to say there. I really don't know where that came from. You can really twist something a certain way, and he's obviously shown he's more than capable of doing that. He's pretty good at twisting things around, that's for sure."
Crosby denied expecting or seeking any special treatment upon his return from a serious concussion that cost him the bulk of the last two seasons, and added that he hasn’t been treated any differently since returning to the ice on March 15.
"I don't feel that anyone's come at me any more or any less," Crosby said. "I think it’s been pretty much what I experienced prior to getting a concussion. I've never said that or made it be known that I feel like guys are coming after me at all. Let's be honest, guys aren't going to give me a lot of space out there. They're going to try to knock me off my game."
Those attempts included Sunday's altercation with Schenn.
"The cross-check from Schenn, that's not something that’s out of the blue," Crosby said. "That happens pretty much every game to be honest with you."
Crosby then addressed some of the specific points Milbury raised.
"As far as me slashing someone, that's hockey," Crosby said. "I guess I'm not a gentleman out there on the ice sometimes, I will say that. There are times where it's a contact sport and I do get involved myself. I don't think I've gotten one penalty in a scrum since I got back, so I just want to clarify that. I know that was something that was up for debate."
One thing not up for debate is that the cross-state rivalry between the Penguins and Flyers is as heated as ever. And with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia facing each other again on Saturday, then likely meeting in the opening round of the playoffs, this is far from the final round in this fight.