PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma wasn't thrilled with Scott Hartnell going after Kris Letang, saying off-handedly that the Philadelphia Flyers forward was "picking on a guy who had a stroke."
In the third period of Saturday's game, Hartnell hit Letang, who was playing his second game back after suffering a stroke in January. Each player was given a two-minute minor for roughing as they mixed it up after the whistle.
After the Flyers' 4-3 overtime win, Bylsma was asked if—even though doctors assured the team and the 26-year-old defenceman that hockey would not put him more at risk for another stroke—he had a little pause seeing Hartnell and Letang shoving each other.
"I did have that thought when that was going on there," said Bylsma. "(Letang) kind of had the play there and the puck on his skate to try to score a goal. It fell off his stick and the whistle and everything ensued after that. Yeah it does, a guy picking on a guy who had a stroke."
A team spokeswoman said Bylsma was joking when he made that remark.
Told of Bylsma's comment regarding Hartnell without the benefit of much context, Flyers coach Craig Berube fired back.
"Then he shouldn't play," Berube said. "He shouldn't be out there playing, bottom line. It's a stupid comment."
Letang, who scored 10 minutes later, said it's "part of the game."
"I got hit from behind, I turn around and it was him," Letang said. "I was not really shocked. but things happen in the game fast. I don't regret (it)."
Hartnell declined comment through a team spokesman.
Letang and Hartnell have something of a history dating to an Oct. 8, 2009 incident in which the Penguins defenceman accused the Flyers forward of biting his right ring finger.
NOTE—Flyers goaltender Steve Mason left the game with what the team called an upper-body injury, which resulted from being crashed into by two players. Penguins forward Jayson Megna pushed Flyers defenceman Andrew MacDonald into Mason at the 16:27 mark of the second period, and the goalie's head snapped back and then appeared to hit the ice. Mason remained in the game until the intermission, but then Ray Emery replaced him to start the third. Berube said Mason was being taken out as a precaution and expects him to be ready for Game 1 of Philadelphia's first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers on Thursday.