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Jimmy Howard takes on Sidney Crosby

Last night’s game between the Red Wings and Penguins felt like it was played between two teams that have battled in the Stanley Cup finals in two straight seasons. It was intense, it was emotional and in the end it got a bit out of hand. (Video here)

As time expired in Detroit’s 3-1 win, Sidney Crosby took the faceoff and immediately began to cross check Henrik Zetterberg. Again and again as the seconds ticked down, he went after Zetterberg who was trying to actually play defense.

As expected, the Red Wings weren’t too happy. Zetterberg went right after Crosby, Bertuzzi got a couple of requisite shots in and then Jimmy Howard stepped in and did his part. Here are some good quotes from both sides on the incident, via Ansar Khan of

Jimmy Howard - “Just helping out a teammate, that’s all. It’s become quite the rivalry, and we stick together out there. He does that stuff all the time. Somehow he gets away with it. Z doesn’t take any of that. He went right back at him, and I stepped in there, too.’'

Sidney Crosby - “I don’t know what [Howard] was doing. It was one of those things, a couple guys battling at the end. I knew the linesman was in there. I don’t know whether (Howard) wanted a free shot, but I don’t think it was any place for him to be.’'

Henrik Zetterberg - “I don’t know if he gets away with it. He plays with a lot of emotion, a lot of heart. Sometimes, it comes out the wrong way. I might be doing the same thing if (the score) were the other way. I saw Jimmy coming in with his glove and Crosby wasn’t there anymore.’'

Of all of these, I love Zetterberg’s reaction the best. He could have come off the ice, spouting how Crosby is spoiled, a dirty player and how never penalized, yadda, yadda, yadda. Instead, he talked of Crosby’s competitiveness and the intense -- and professional - rivalry that has built between the two players. Personally, I prefer that sort of rivalry over one that is built through hate and discontent. But that’s just me.

As far as Crosby’s take on Howard’s reaction: What did he expect to happen?