Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pens v Canadiens (W 2-0)

Before I get started, I want to take a minute to thank all of you for helping our new Friend Gina get pictures of her daughters with Sidney and Colby Armstrong. You guys are the best!!! Also, I want to give a shout out to the Thrashers fans who helped pick up on this quest, as well as to Seth of Empty Netters for pitching in to get the call out there. I am sure the little girls in question are glad they now have photos of themselves with our Penguins superstars. BIG THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED! :)

Now on to tonight's game: Coach Michel Therrien shook up the lines in response to not having Sidney available. Dany Sabourin got the start for the Pens, while Cristobal Huet was in between the pipes for the Canadiens. Without Sidney, the Penguins were 0W-2L-2OT at the start of this game. Just before the puck dropped, Bob Errey said hello to Sid who was most likely resting and watching the game at home (or "couchside" as Errey put it). A mere 14 seconds into the game, Sid's best friend and on-the-road roommate Colby Armstrong is sent flying into the boards after Roman Hamrlik drilled his shoulder into him. Army hit the boards while on his backside with his legs in the air. For a second, we breathed a sigh of relief that his legs didn't hit the boards, but that feeling wouldn't last - he didn't get up and began writhing in obvious pain. The trainers made their way out to him, and after a few minutes, he got up and made his way to the locker room under his own power. Later, we would learn that he was complaining that his "ass" (his word, not mine - haha) was what hurt. He wouldn't return to the game after suffering a hip contusion (bruise).

Kovalev controls the puck.

Evgeni Malkin played the entire game like a man possessed. He singlehandedly dominated the game. Sabou was a close second with 31 saves, but Geno was the man tonight. He played well both offensively and defensively. (Oddly, Geno was NOT one of the night's stars. Mike Komisarek, Huet, and Sabou got the third, second, and first stars, respectively. He was definitely robbed.) Georges Laraque earned the night's first penalty for elbowing. On the Canadiens' power play, Rob Scuderi made a HUGE save when Sabou was on the wrong side of the net. Then Sabou made a great glove save on Christopher Higgins to keep the Canadiens from scoring on their power play. Later, Alex Kovalev shot a rebound from the side that Sabou was just barely able to keep from crossing the goal line. After some incredible puck handling, Georges Laraque backhanded the puck from behind the net to Jeff Taffe, who was in front of the net. Taffe blasted it in the goal so hard that the puck popped out so fast that we weren't sure if it went in or not until the players started celebrating. [Pens 1, Canadiens 0] The Canadiens had several good chances, but Sabou made several better saves. One in particular saw Sabou poke checking Michael Ryder just before he could get a shot on goal. Despite Ryder's good play, the Canadiens' fans booed him for his efforts. (Apparently he's not playing well enough for them.) The Canadiens get away with a slash, and the first period came to an end with Komisarek and Jarrko Ruutu going at it.

Laraque and Ruutu celebrate Taffe's goal after a fantastic shift by the Pens' fourth line.

Surprisingly, Ruutu and Komisarek weren't penalized for their scuffle. The second period began with the standard 5-on-5 play until Hamrlik was cited for interference on Ruutu, who may have exaggerated it a bit to sell it. The Pens didn't score on the advantage. Then, one of the most incredible plays of the season happened. Geno got control of the puck behind Sabou and went streaking down the wing. He tapped the puck to Petr Sykora so he could get around a man, then Sykora passed it right back to Malkin. Finally, he passed the puck to Sergei Gonchar. He took a shot on Huet, but Huet made the save. Even though it didn't end with a goal, it was amazing to watch Geno go coast-to-coast through everyone. I bet Sidney was proud. ;) Later, Tom Kostopoulos took a cheap shot on Ruutu. As the play got nastier, Malkin got better. He headlined the puck to Sykora, who was in deep, for a breakaway chance. Sykora took a quick, hard shot that Huet blocked. Sykora then tried to put the rebound into the net, but Huet stopped that shot, too. A little later, the Canadiens developed a 2-on-1. Sykora backchecked nicely to break up the play.

Laraque looks like he's up to something here, doesn't he?

Erik Christensen, who returned from several absences due to illness and then the death of his grandfather, was called for slashing. On the Canadiens' power play, the Canadiens' developed a 3-on-1 against Darryl Sydor. Sydor made a great move when he lifted the stick of the man with the puck to break up the play. Later, Ruutu drew another penalty on Mark Streit for hooking after Streit hauled Ruutu down from behind, but for some reason the ref also gave Ruutu a penalty - for diving. It was a bad call. If he earned a diving penalty tonight, it would have been in the first period. No call was made on that play, and I got the feeling that this call was the refs trying to make up for missing that. Neither team scored on the ensuing 4-on-4. With just a couple of minutes left in the second, Geno blocked two shots then took the puck the length of the ice for a shot. Huet blocked it, and Errey shouted, "Don't be blocking shots, Evgeni!!! We need you!!!" Truer words were never spoken! With less than a minute left in the period, Tomas Plekanec was given two minutes in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. I'll be honest with you - I didn't see what happened. FSN went to commercial and when they came back, Plekanec was in the box. During the ensuing abbreviated power play, Huet made a spectacular save on a shot by Ryan Whitney. With 11 seconds left in the period, Gonchar gave the puck away at center ice. Malkin dove onto his stomach and extended his stick all the way out to poke check the puck away and prevent a shot on Sabou. UNREAL. The second ended with the same score as the first.

Sabou = Tonight's First Star

The third period began with still just under a minute left on the penalty to Plekanec. The Pens didn't get a goal on this advantage, either. Sabou had another big save when he stopped Higgins from getting the puck over the goal line. Higgins kept chopping away at it, but Sabou didn't budge. Ruutu flew down to steal the puck in the Canadiens' zone. It lead to at least a minute of puck possession for the Pens. Finally, Malkin blasted a one-timer so hard that it broke the blade of a Canadiens player's stick. Then Mathieu Dandenault was given a tripping penalty after he took Geno down. The Pens looked pretty bad on their power play. The Canadiens had more shorthanded chances than the Pens had power play chances. Max Talbot and Taffe both ended up in separate scrums. The Pens didn't score on the power play. The game kept getting nastier. Errey said, "They're mucking it up!!!"

Sykora is sooooo close.

Sykora picked off a pass from Kovalev and shot the puck. Geno was in the front of the net, but Huet made the save. Komisarek then lined up and leveled Malkin as he was streaking down center ice. Malkin got up and appeared a little dazed, but he didn't leave the ice and wasn't hurt. On the same shift, Komisarek then drilled Talbot into the boards. Later, Malkin swooped into the Canadiens' zone to steal the puck. He and Ryan Malone both get shots on goal, but both are stopped by Huet. Sabou made a shaky (but nonetheless effective) save on Kovalev. With 1:24 left in the game, Huet was pulled. Malkin eventually got control of the puck and sent it down towards the empty net - but THE PUCK HIT THE GOAL POST AND DIDN'T GO INTO THE NET. It seems like Malkin can't buy a goal right now! With seconds left to go, Malkin powered from several feet behind to beat Streit to the puck. He takes a shot and FINALLY gets a reward for his hard work for the night. He scored the empty net goal with 12 seconds left in the game. [Pens 2, Canadiens 0] The clock ticked down and Sabou earned a shutout in his first game in almost a month. Coach Therrien met the team at the entrance to the runway for a congratulatory glove bump for a job well done in this first game without the man who has had a hand in 50% of the Pens' goals so far this season. This win was huge. It will be quite a morale booster for a team that is missing several of its key players because of injuries. As the Coach said, "We will battle through." Amen to that, Coach!!!


Before I go, I want you to check out this analysis of the Pens' current situation done by Good Friend of The Show Loser Chris from Taking One For The Team. He takes an in depth look at both the best case and the worst case scenarios the Pens will be facing now that Sid, Mark Eaton, Gary Roberts, and Marc-Andre Fleury are all out indefinitely. As you can probably tell by now, I'm a glass-is-half-full kind of gal, so I'm going to continue to believe that the best case scenario is what's going to happen!!! :)

The Pens will face the Washington Capitals on Monday night at 7:30pm Eastern. GO PENS & Get Well Soon, Sid!!!


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