The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 on "Matt Cooke Hate Fest" night at ScotiaBank Place. No, Cooke did not have to drop his gloves and get beat up as revenge for his hit on Erik Karlsson in February that left the Senators defenseman with an injured Achilles. Cooke did have to take many a question about the incident before and after the game.
He didn't get one from Don Brennan, a writer for the Ottawa Sun. He's a troll. (Recall what he wrote about Sidney Crosby before the 2008 playoffs.) He was back at it again Sunday going after Cooke and then following Monday's game, Brennan wrote a column with this as the headline:
Yes, that's a real headline on a real newspaper website in 2013. Yes, it's the Sun, but still...
And no, Brennan didn't visit the Penguins locker room on Monday bearing gifts, but he goes on to tell a tale about encountering Cooke after the post-morning skate media availability.
After listening to Cooke answer questions about the Feb. 13 incident in which his skate sliced 70% of the way through Erik Karlsson's Achilles tendon, I went to speak with other players in the room about different matters. Like every other reporter there. On the way out, I found Cooke waiting to have a word in private with me.
He wanted to tell me I have no balls. At first I think he said "small balls." But by the time he had finished, and knew Penguins GM Ray Shero was listening, he had decided I had none. Oh, and I believe he also mumbled something about me having no penis before disappearing into the players-only room, which I found interesting.
I will not take this opportunity to, ahem, brag about my manhood.
Brennan goes on to write that he told Cooke he had no questions for him because one he had in mind had been already asked.
Cooke was baited a few times during the game by Chris Neil, but he didn't accept. Early on, he ended up drawing a penalty on rookie Eric Gryba. Later, making things further frustrating for the Senators, Cooke won a puck battle behind the Ottawa net and fed Tyler Kennedy for the insurance goal to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead.
This is how it will be for Matt Cooke for the rest of his career. Despite changing his ways thanks in part to some personal strife, his past will continue to haunt him and he'll never get a fair shake. To his credit, he's been able to ignore the attention and his game has benefited from it, as seen Monday night.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy