Ryan Suter crunched Steve Downie with a flagrant elbow in the second period.
Downie wouldn't return to the game.
Suter later apologized through Sidney Crosby. Downie has played down the incident and now all we're awaiting is a phone conference between Suter and the league player safety office to determine how many games or not-games of righteous indignation we'll have to argue about this until the next one.
It's a script, and the sequel is no less boring. The Penguins didn't take a run at Suter after the fact, raising several questions -- why didn't they run at him? should they have run at him? and will anyone take them seriously now that they passed on the opportunity?
God, this does get boring, doesn't it?
Short of punching Suter in his ugly stupid face and letting him know how they really felt about him and the way he looks and his hygiene and so on, the Penguins took another route and continued playing hockey.
Boy, did they ever.
Following Jonas Brodin's second period tally (which came just after the hit on Downie), the Pens scored four unanswered and five before the thing was out, posting a seven-spot on the Wild while handing them their sixth-straight loss.
If that's not responding, I don't know what is.
Nonetheless, the Pens were still faced with plenty of the same stupid questions that follow every same stupid instance of one player going out of his way to injure another (and no amount of good-guy rep and apologies to the captain should be allowed to seep into that isolated instance which, and I don't know how one sees this any other way, was just a bald-faced attempt to injure).
Let's break down why those stupid questions are terrible and how the Pens were right to keep their foot on the gas in lieu of a donnybrook.
But what about sticking up for your teammate?
Hey, maybe you're right, guy who isn't on the team. We know Downie, had he been on the ice and seen someone else take that hit, would have cruised in and thrown with Suter or anyone else who would oblige. Craig Adams reportedly later got in Suter's face, marking the first time in four attempts at being confrontational that he went after someone on the other team. But really, if the zebras didn't see the elbow at time, the Pens probably didn't, either.
They could have gone back at Suter on his next shift, but by then, the Pens' lead had been cut to 2-1. No excuse in pursuing a fight when a last-place team in search of anything to cling to is only down by a goal.
But what about other teams who see the Pens go passive and who might want to try this?
Hey, maybe you're right, guy who's always wrong about everything. It's no good to have a reputation as a patsy, as the Penguins so expertly cultivated last postseason while the Blue Jackets and Rangers carved up Sidney Crosby's limbs like a ham. You've got to be able to stand up for yourself, and to make other teams know that you won't tolerate liberties taken with your pals.
But there's a time for that sort of thing, and it's not halfway through the season with a division race that's closing tight and an eminently beatable opponent on the table. Fights tend to diminish when the games start to matter (one-fifth as many during the postseason compared to the regular season), and with the Isles in first and the Capitals and Rangers gaining fast, these games, even at the midpoint of the season, kind of matter.
Besides, the Pens haven't turtled from responding physically this year. Not by any stretch.
Since Downie and Blake Comeau came to Kris Letang's aid in the season opener against the Ducks, this year's version of the Pens has been anything but passive. No team has more PIM per game than the Pens at 14.3 per. No team has more misconduct penalties (9) or roughing minors (37) than the Penguins. Only Winnipeg has taken more total minor penalties. Three clubs have received more major assessments than the Pens' 21. Columbus and Buffalo are the only teams to have more fighting majors than the Penguins' 20.
All that belligerence, and the Pens have survived with by deploying the league's second-best penalty killing unit (88.3 percent).
The Suter elbow came when Downie was alone in the zone, the Penguins were making a change and even the referees didn't see the elbow get up until replays confirmed it wasn't a high stick. If they let this one go, whether by choice or chance, that does little to strike down the work they've done in being bastards to play against this year.
But what about the code?
Hey, maybe you're wrong. The Pens gave the Wild a bigger black eye in turning up a football score than they could have by trying to give Suter a literal black eye.
The Wild are a team that hasn't won a game since the first of the month and sits last in their division despite having one of the richest payrolls in hockey. With Randy Carlyle now putting his feet up on the couch, Mike Yeo's seat is the hottest in hockey. Taking a number doesn't get coaches fired or players benched or executives fuming. Seven goals against does.
Suter's got his hearing due with the NHL any time now, and the Pens have a clean two points and two straight wins heading into a first-place battle against the Islanders on Friday. We've seen the version of the Pens that tries to make itself look tough at inopportune times, and they got summarily bounced out of the 2012 and 2013 playoffs by opponents who were just playing the game.
Pittsburgh just played the game last night, and, not shocking, they're quite good at it.
They've been tough when they needed to be this year, and smart when the situation has called for it. The division's up for grabs and points are going to come at an ever-greater premium as the postseason nears. The situation now calls for winning hockey games -- not being the best at fight club.
And if you can do that while smoking the dummy who nailed your guy to the tune of a minus-4, that's just gravy.
Tuesday Slew is a feature that occasionally runs Wednesdays throughout the season. Shower James with your praise and adulation on twitter @SlewFooters.