Star defenseman Erik Karlsson went down with a left Achilles injury when he was cut by a skate blade late in the second period in the Senators’ 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
“It’s a tough blow,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “Obviously, the way he’s playing and how much he means to our team, it feels terrible, and I feel really bad for him.”
The Norris Trophy winner last season as the NHL’s top defenseman, Karlsson was cut by Penguins forward Matt Cooke‘s skate blade as the two tangled along the boards. The Senators said Karlsson will need surgery.
“We all know who’s involved in it,” Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said about Cooke. “That’s just the way it is. The injury to Erik was unfortunate, and it happens on a nothing play that could’ve potentially been whistled down.”
Cooke has been suspended several times for much criticized hits, some of them involving head shots that injured opposing players. In 2011, Cooke was suspended for the Penguins’ final 10 regular-season games and the first round of the playoffs after an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
Karlsson fell to the ice and was in visible pain after tangling with Cooke. He needed help getting back to the bench and displayed frustration, throwing his stick against the boards before disappearing down the runway.
“Him and I were engaged, and he went down screaming,” Cooke said. “I didn’t even know what happened. It’s a complete accident, and obviously I feel terrible about it. It has happened a few times over the past couple years, and it’s scary.”
The Senators stood up for their teammate in the third as Chris Neil took penalties for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct after tussling with Cooke.
“I think at the end of the day you kind of expect it,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said. “I don’t think anyone was shocked to see Neil go after him, but unfortunately, that’s kind of how it works sometimes.”
James Neal scored twice, and Crosby had a goal and two assists to help Penguins snap a two-game losing streak and pull within a point of Eastern Conference-leading New Jersey.