TAMPA — As much as physical jabs are part of hockey, so, too, are the verbal jabs that occur during the course of a game.
That’s why Lightning forward Pat Maroon was so frustrated when he and Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds were assessed 10-minute misconduct penalties for chirping at each other from their benches early in the Lightning’s 6-2 loss Monday at Amalie Arena.
“This game’s going the wrong way,” Maroon said. “I guess you can’t chirp each other on the bench now. I guess that’s illegal. I guess it’s better to watch 1980s hockey, when guys were chirping each other.”
Maroon, the Lightning’s chief enforcer, had been chirping with Simmonds, who plays the same role for the Leafs, for most of the game’s first six minutes.
The exchange heightened after Tampa Bay forward Corey Perry drew five Toronto skaters, including Simmonds — who began pushing and shoving Perry — after a whistle in front of Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell.
Following a faceoff in the Toronto zone, referee Frederick L’Ecuyer whistled the play dead and issued matching penalties to Maroon and Simmonds.
On the Lightning’s TV broadcast, analyst Brian Engblom, who was working between the benches, said L’Ecuyer warned both players before assessing the penalty.
“It’s kind of too bad in a way,” Engblom said on the broadcast, “because this is what the flavor is all about, everybody just kind of leering at each other. I heard Maroon say to Simmonds, ‘Hey, you’re going to be out of the league next year, anyway.’ The other comment from Simmonds I can’t really repeat.”
Maroon often leans over the bench to engage the opposing bench in trash talk as a way of frustrating opponents and bringing his teammates into the fight of a game. Aside from his enforcer role, that Maroon has played on the past three Stanley Cup-winning teams gives him ultimate bragging rights in oral confrontations.
Perry, who isn’t afraid to chirp opponents himself, said he had never seen a penalty called under those circumstances during his 17-year NHL career. When asked about it after the game, Perry first said, “I don’t know what happened there. I’m just going to leave that one alone. I don’t want to get fined.”
Later, Perry said, “I guess (the game) quieted a little bit (after the penalties). But what’s going to happen when the playoffs come? They’re just going to give everyone a 10-minute misconduct?”
The penalties played a role in the game’s pace. There was no escalation between Maroon and Simmonds, and by the second period, the physical tone at the start of the game gave way to a quick pace that favored the Maple Leafs.
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Lightning coach Jon Cooper received the first ejection of his 10-year NHL coaching career for abuse of an official after arguing a penalty call with referee Wes McCauley in a March 3 game against the Penguins. Asked Tuesday about the penalties assessed to Maroon and Simmonds, Cooper said, “The game’s changing a bit here in a weird way.”
Chirping from the bench “is part of the game,” he said.
“I highly, highly doubt what happened to me and what happened to Pat Maroon would ever have happened in the playoffs,” Cooper said. “So I don’t know why they’re calling it in the regular season as well.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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