Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pens v Bruins (W 5-4 SO)

For readers of today's earlier post: Did you find the typo? Zdeno Chara's name was spelled "Zedno" Chara. Yikes!

The introduction for tonight's game is simple: The Pens blew a 4 goal lead, and our main man Sidney Crosby had his first NHL fight.

Ty Conklin was the starting goaltender for the Pens tonight. The Pens came out flying in the first period. Fifty five seconds into the period, Colby Armstrong forced a turnover that the Saint then passed to an unchallenged Evgeni Malkin to score the first goal of the night. The momentum continued to pick up for the Pens from there. The first chance for the Bruins came when Glen Murray had a wide open shot on Conklin. The rebound went up and over the goalie, but Kris Letang was there to bat the puck out of the air to prevent a score. Gary Roberts centered a shot for Erik Christensen, but Tim Thomas stopped the shot. Aaron Ward hassled Crusher as the play was whistled down, but Roberts skated over and settled them both down. Sir Sidney, Geno, and Army rushed toward the goal in a 3 on 2, and Army fired a hard shot that rang off the crossbar. Just a few minutes later on their next shift, Army and Sid again rushed the goal. Sid was being challenged by 6'9" Zdeno Chara. Somehow, Sid managed to get the blade of his stick out a few inches out ahead of Chara's stick to redirect a quick pass from Army under Thomas's leg to give the Penguins their second goal of the night.

The Pens celebrate Sid's goal.

Then Roberts set up Crusher from behind the net twice just seconds apart, but both times Thomas was able to prevent him from scoring. Philip Kessel fired a shot but Conklin used his blocker to deny him the goal. Bob Errey and Paul Steigerwald then began talking about how nice a third goal would be for some extra insurance as Sidney passed the puck to the high slot where Malkin geared up and scored on a slap shot. Pens 3, Bruins 0. A mere 30 seconds later, viewers everywhere braced themselves: Big Georges Laraque and Chara dropped their gloves. I thought for sure I would feel the tremors all the way over here in central Pennsylvania, but the fight never really got started. The two behemoths each missed a shot at one another, then Chara used a wrestling move to take Laraque and himself to the ice in a bear hug. Apparently because no punches connected, each man was given a 2 minute penalty for delay of game. Then as the two giants emerged from their respective penalty boxes, they decided to go for round two, though round two looked almost exactly like round one. This time, they received 5 minutes for fighting. With 1:15 left in the period, Malkin got called for slashing. The first and best scoring chance on the power play was a shorthanded chance by Jordan Staal that Thomas was able to block. The period ended with the Pens up 3-0.

The penalty to Malkin continued as the second period began. The Bruins had a series of nice shots on goal, but Conklin had a series of even nicer saves. Then a Bruin (I didn't see who it was when it happened, and FSN Pittsburgh never showed him in the box) took a holding penalty. The Bruins developed a shorthanded 2-on-1 chance, but P.J. Axelsson's shot was way off. Then IT happened: Sidney had his first fight in the NHL. Sid earned the Gordie Howe hat trick after Andrew Ference hit him into the boards and then took a punch at the back of the Saint's head. [Late edit: Upon seeing the fight again this morning, Ference actually punched Sid in the face, not the back of the head. My apologies for the mistake. I guess that's what happens, though, when you recap in real time!] Sidney snapped. Immediately he tossed his gloves and went nuts on Ference's face. When they finally fell to the ice and were separated, it appeared that Ference might be bleeding. They both were given 5 minutes in their sin bins for fighting, and Ference was given 2 extra minutes for roughing. With 11 seconds left on the Penguins power play, Dennis Wideman took a penalty for holding. During the extended power play, Chara took Roberts down but was not called for it. The Pens didn't score on these advantages.

Sidney opens up a can of whoop ass on Ference. Below are clips of the brawl from two different angles.

Then Malkin was called for tripping. As he went to the box, we learned that Ference went to the locker room for medical treatment following his tangle with The Kid and is now sporting a visor on his helmet. [Late edit: This morning, I found a better photo as well as video clips of the fight which revealed that Ference had been wearing a visor prior to the incident.] FSN then showed a closeup of our captain. It revealed that droplets of Ference's blood were on Sid's jersey just above the C. Less than a minute into Malkin's penalty, a penalty was given to Wideman. During the ensuing 4-on-4, Ryan Whitney made a beautiful pass to Christensen, who tipped it in to make it Pens 4, Bruins 0. Then Adam Hall was called for high sticking when Chara lifted Hall's stick into another Bruin's face. The Bruins got 50 seconds of 5-on-3 when Sergei Gonchar was called for tripping. Just seconds after Hall's penalty expired, Glen Metropolit finally got his club on the board with a power play goal. Pens 4, Bruins 1.

Crusher celebrates his goal.

Later, Metropolit was given a penalty. During the Bruins power play, Gonchar got away with a blatant interference on Kessel during a breakaway, but the Bruins would get their revenge as just off the very next faceoff, Axelsson scored a shorthanded goal. The second period ended with the Pens 4, Bruins 2.

The third period saw Sidney wearing a fresh blood-free jersey, and the Bruins turning things up even more. Jarrko Ruutu took a penalty for hooking, but the Bruins didn't score on this power play. Then Malkin got a good chance for a hat trick as Sidney centered a pass for him, but Thomas sprawled out to prevent it from happening. Gonchar got another penalty, this time for holding Chara. Just as the penalty ended, Petteri Nokelainen scored to bring the Bruins within one goal of tying the game. The Pens really dropped the ball in this period. With about six minutes left in the period, Christensen took a penalty for hooking. The Bruins power play cashed in when Wideman was wide open for a shot. You can call it a 4 goal comeback for the Bruins or you can say the Pens blew a 4 goal lead. Either way, the game was now tied. With just minutes left to go, Mark Eaton went down when Vladimir Sobotka made no effort to avoid hitting him while he had his head down low. After writhing in pain for what seemed like an eternity, Eaton left the ice under his own power (he did not return for overtime). The third period ended, and overtime began.

I don't have enough space to detail everything that happened during the 5 minutes of overtime. There was some insane hockey played - up and down and back and forth and so many scoring chances - but neither team was able to get it in the net, so the game went to a shoot out. Here's how that played out:

Christensen - 1 (They don't call him Mr. Shoot Out for nothing, you know!)
Kessel - 0
Letang - 1 (He's a shoot out savant, I swear.)
Marco Sturm - 0

Letang (again) is the man.

The Penguins took the extra point. The Pens come home to host the Islanders tomorrow night at 7:30pm Eastern. GO PENS!!!

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