Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pens v Panthers (W 3-1)

Early in the first period of this rematch against the Panthers (albeit this time the game is being played in Florida), Erik Christensen drew a penalty on Ruslan Salei. Other than a wicked shot on goal courtesy of one Ryan Whitney that Tomas Vokoun blocked, nothing eventful happened on the Pens' power play. Later, Olli Jokinen plowed into Ty Conklin. Jokinen ended up knocking the goalie down but did not end up getting a penalty for his actions; seconds later, however, Jokinen was penalized for hooking. Maybe it was deja vu, but again, other than another wicked shot on goal by Whitney, nothing really happened on this Penguins power play, either. Richard Zednik had the first real chance for the Panthers, but he fanned on the shot. Conklin made some great saves on Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester.

"Eat my - snow?!"

FSN Pittsburgh features a "Quote of the Day" during every Pens game. Usually they are trivial statements made by the players or the coaches (more often than not, the statement is about Sidney in one way or another). Today's quote of the day came to us courtesy of NBA megastar LeBron James. Friends of The Show already know what James had to say thanks to an anonymous commenter who posted the quote in the Sid's "Scoring" Workout post:
In Canada, hockey is king. And the LeBron James of the NHL is Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby – whose career, in several ways, has paralleled LeBron’s.

“I know he’s great at what he does,” said James. “They call him ‘Sid the Kid,’ he’s been great for the Pittsburgh Penguins and what he’s able to do, as young as he is, is pretty good. I know they compare him to me and I’m excited to be compared to a guy who plays the game the way he does.”
Kris Letang and another Penguin (I didn't see who it was) threw themselves down on the ice to prevent the Panthers from scoring. Sidney then gained possession of the puck and headed towards Vokoun. He perfectly set Brooks Orpik up for what we all hoped would be his first goal in 165 games (nope - that's not a typo). Orpik deflected the shot directly on goal, but Vokoun absorbed the puck and prevented the goal. Later, Darryl Sydor took a hard shot from just inside the blue line that Vokoun was able to catch in his glove. Then, Petr Sykora set up Christensen (who, by the way, streaked in seemingly from out of nowhere), but Crusher's shot rang off the post. Evgeni Malkin later stole the puck and did a few fancy spinning moves that were quite impressive but did not result in a goal. Then Conklin took a few years off my life: He went to the side of the cage to play the puck. He extended his stick and the puck hit it squarely on the big blade. But then it bounced off the blade, went between Conklin's feet, and slid into the open blue paint. It was literally a few inches from crossing the goal line as Conklin calmly but quickly skated over and swept it out of danger. WOW. Near the end of the period, Nathan Horton had what should have been a sure thing, but he missed the wide open net.

Tomas Vokoun gets up close and personal with tonight's first star.

We say many times here on The Show how even when Sid doesn't score a goal his puck handling abilities are second to none. We got to see it again tonight. He had the puck as he began to fall. He twisted a bit and landed on his stomach, not only maintaining possession but also control of the puck all the way. He got back up on his feet (still controlling the puck) but fell again. This time he landed on his arse. From his rear, Sid continued to control that puck, finally passing it to Geno. It didn't result in a goal, but it was damn impressive to watch. The first period ended with two big goose eggs on the scoreboard.

What a player.

The second period started out the opposite of the month of March - it came in like a lamb and went out like a lion. Colby Armstrong had two chances and Jeff Taffe had one chance, but Vokoun stopped them all. First Bryan Allen then Bouwmeester exchanged "pleasantries" with Army, but neither incident escalated beyond words. Georges Laraque powered through practically all the Panthers on the ice to attempt a wrap around, but Vokoun put down his pads to make the save. The Panthers then should have gotten the first goal of the night, but Stephen Weiss dropped the ball in the worst way. After Allen took a hard shot from the point, the puck hit Conklin in the chest and popped up and over him. Both Weiss and David Booth were behind Conklin on either side of the goal. Weiss's stick was not in good position to push the puck into the net, while Booth's stick was in perfect position. But for reasons unknown, Weiss decided that it would be a good idea to kick the puck into the goal. The refs immediately said "NO GOAL!" as they waived it off. Weiss essentially robbed his own team of that all important, momentum-shifting first goal. What a bad choice by Weiss, but what a gift for the Pens. Then Ryan Malone was bearing down on Vokoun for a good shot when Salei hooked him. On the ensuing power play, Gregory Campbell got a wide open shorthanded breakaway chance, but Conklin calmly met him at the blue paint to block the shot. The Pens regained possession and took it to the other end. Sidney passed it to Sykora, who chipped it into the net. Pens 1, Panthers 0.

Bouwmeester tries to stop the Malkin machine.

As I mentioned earlier, that first goal really can cause a huge shift in momentum. This must have been the case because just over one minute later, the Saint took the puck from a pass off the wall and sailed down the ice. He split the Panthers' defense and promptly scored on the stick side of Vokoun. Pens 2, Panthers 0. And here's the thing about momentum: Once it gets going, it can't be stopped. Just over two minutes after Sid's goal, Taffe took a shot that bounced off the post. Laraque was right there, ready to poke it over the goal line. Pens 3, Panthers 0. After what was presumably the worst five minutes of his life so far in 2008, Vokoun was promptly pulled and replaced by Craig Anderson. The Panthers then began to allow their frustrations to show as Allen pushed down Malone. Towards the end of the period, Sid made yet another pretty play when he passed the puck to Malkin as he was down on one knee, but Geno missed the puck. As the final seconds of the period ticked down, Malone, Tyler Kennedy, and Letang worked together for a great chance. The puck went through the paint but went just beyond Malone's stick. The second period ended with the Pens dominating and the Panthers stunned.

Sid scores number 18 for the season.

About three seconds into the third, Conklin got a delay of game penalty after he went behind the net to play the puck as a Panthers player was bearing down on him. Truthfully, I got a phone call here so I missed exactly what happened that made the refs decide to penalize Conklin. At any rate, Sykora served the penalty for his goaltender, and Jordan Staal opened the Panthers' power play with a good shorthanded chance that Anderson was able to block. Conklin made a series of nice saves to prevent the Panthers from capitalizing on their advantage. Later, Booth and Horton tried their best to get past Conklin, but Horton's shot was blocked while Booth's shot was way too high.

Weiss and Sid go after the puck.

A little bit later, Jarrko Ruutu was robbed of his first goal of the season not by Anderson, but by the referees. Ruutu's attempt lingered just on the outside of the goal line. Anderson swept his legs together. Logically the puck crossed that goal line, but since the refs lost sight of it, they waived it off. Just afterwards, Salei went to the box again for hooking. Only 28 seconds into his penalty, Allen took a penalty of his own for crosschecking Malone. Allen actually broke his stick over Malone's arm. Malone understandably (he's Irish, after all) was ready to throw down with Allen, but Geno swooped in so that cooler heads would prevail. The Pens didn't capitalize on the 2-man advantage. During the remainder of Allen's penalty, Conklin lost his shutout streak against Florida when Campbell scored a shorthanded goal late in the period. The Pens got another power play chance after Sid was hauled down, but it didn't matter. The third period ended, and the Pens now have a 7 game winning streak. On Thursday, the Pens meet the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30pm Eastern. GO PENS!!!


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