The Pittsburgh Penguins evened their Eastern Conference semifinal series but lost Olli Maatta as the defenseman suffered an upper-body injury early in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of their matchup.
Maatta took an elbow to the head from former Penguins blue-liner Brooks Orpik just 4:13 into the contest and appeared woozy as he was guided off the ice and to the locker room. Orpik was given a minor penalty for interference and could receive a suspension from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit that everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game. And that’s how I saw it.”
Washington coach Barry Trotz attempted to defend Orpik but soon realized he very well may not have Orpik in the lineup for Game 3 – and possibly beyond.
“There’s a little a size difference, and I think Maatta was leaning over a little bit,” Trotz said. “We’ll let the league handle it. If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard. He plays clean.
“He’s not a dirty player. The Pittsburgh people know that. He plays the game hard, the right way. Whatever the league decides, we’ll just deal with it.”
The 21-year-old Maatta managed to register one shot on goal before exiting. He took two shifts that
totaled 31 seconds of ice time.
Maatta has recorded a minus-1 rating without notching a point in seven games this postseason. He appeared in 67 contests during the regular season, amassing six goals, 13 assists and a plus-27 rating.
Selected with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, Maatta made his NHL debut in 2013-14 and set career highs of nine goals, 20 assists and 29 points in 78 games. He was limited to 20 contests last season due to surgeries to remove a cancerous tumor on his neck and repair his shoulder.
The 6-foot-2, 206-pound Maatta has collected 16 goals and 41 assists in 165 regular-season games while notching four assists in 20 playoff contests. A native of Jyvaskyla, Finland, he represented his country at three IIHF World Junior Championships from 2011-13 and helped capture the bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics by recording three goals and two assists in six games.