Actually, Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin would go one step further.
“It’s not surprise. It did not start yesterday, it started a long time ago,” Malkin told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic on Thursday evening. “We hate each other.”
His comments came after Pittsburgh topped Columbus in a shootout on Thursday to secure a 3-2 win. It marked the first time the clubs had played since the Penguins won a first-round playoff series this past spring. That marked the second time in four years Columbus had been eliminated from the post-season by Pittsburgh.
No wonder the frustration boiled over on Thursday.
During the second period, Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno fell on Malkin in front of the Columbus net and the Pens forward sprung up to punch Foligno in the face, gloves on. Malkin got five minutes for that, while teammate Sidney Crosby – who’s been on the wrong end of a Brandon Dubinsky cross-check in the past – earned a roughing double-minor against Blue Jackets defenceman Seth Jones.
Penguins defender Kris Letang, who eventually scored the shootout winner, was also given a roughing minor and Boone Jenner of the Blue Jackets received a game misconduct for cross-checking.
“I think it’s just two teams with a lot of history,” Foligno said. “Emotions are going to run wild. It’s a game we both really wanted, and that’s what happens.”