Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pens v Thrashers (L 2-3 SO)

UGH. I could have just as easily titled this post "Recchi's Revenge." He's scored 16 points in 17 games with the Thrashers (he only had 8 points in 19 games as a Pen), and he was a thorn in the Pens' side all night tonight helping to break the Penguins' winning streak. Here's what went down.

The game started out with the starting line up for both teams escorting the starting line up from a girls' hockey clinic that was being held in Atlanta. The girls all appeared to be around 10 years old, but I'm a terrible judge of age so I could be waaaay off. The stupid announcer messed up two Pens' names: He called Ryan Whitney "Ray Whitney" and referred to this season's #5 Darryl Sydor as last season's #5 Rob Scuderi. Way to know your opponent! The little girl that was paired up with Whitney fell as she was taking her place (this will be important later). None of the little girls looked happier than the girl paired up with our title man. The two of them were chatting and laughing while the Thrashers' fans booed Sid as his name was announced.

Staal challenges Kovalchuk.

The girls left the ice and the puck was dropped. Early in the first period, Bobby Holik put a hard hit on the Saint. It didn't phase him too much, though. Announcer Paul Steigerwald laughed at the girl who fell after noting that the players are falling too ("It can't be bad ice yet!"), to which Bob Errey responded, "I used to fall too, Steigy. just gotta keep getting back up." Nice one, Steigy. Adam Hall chopped away at a loose puck near Kari Lehtonen, but Lehtonen eventually got to cover the puck. Ilya Kovalchuk got a quick shot just off the faceoff, but Ty Conklin made the glove save. Petr Sykora blocked a shot and then went towards Lehtonen with Jordan Staal. Sykora took a shot that Lehtonen blocked. Lehtonen had difficulty contolling rebounds all night. This one popped up and, while Ryan Malone was there in front, he couldn't get the rebound to make a shot. A rush by Sidney, Evgeni Malkin, and Whitney was started when Colby Armstrong stole the puck in the Penguins' zone. Geno had control of the puck in the center then passed it to Sid, who was on Geno's left side. Sid and Geno had attracted the two Thrashers d-men. Whitney was on the other side of the ice (to Geno's right), and Sid quickly passed the puck to him. Whitney blasted a shot that Lehtonen blocked. The rebound came to the corner of the cage closest to Sidney. He calmed the bouncing puck down and shuffled it in on Lehtonen's right side. It was his 19th goal of the season. [Pens 1, Thrashers 0] When Crosby's name was announced for scoring the goal, the booing resumed.

Sydor defends the puck against Colin Stuart.

Sidney and Holik, as captains of their respective teams, were sporting an extra patch on their jerseys. It was the Hockey Fights Cancer logo on the upper right side of their jerseys. The jerseys will later be auctioned off. The captains of the other NHL teams will be participating in this event, as well, and all the proceeds will (obviously) be going to Hockey Fights Cancer. I expect Sid's jersey to bring in top dollar, as his game used Winter Classic jersey was going for more than $11,000 last time I heard.

The Pens were about to be called for a delayed penalty, but Kovalchuk blasted a shot from the point that hit the post but went in anyways. Sergei Gonchar argued with the refs, and on the replay, we saw why: just after the Pens were called for the penalty, the puck had popped up into the meshing. This should have ended the play. Most of the Pens and some of the Thrashers players stopped. Mark Recchi didn't - he passed the puck to Kovalchuk, who scored that goal. It doesn't matter. The refs didn't see the puck hit the mesh so the goal stood. [Pens 1, Thrashers 1] Later, we're told that Malone lost 10 pounds following his leg infection and that he's having a little trouble gaining it back. A fortuitous bounce then went right to Marian Hossa, but he failed to shoot the puck. The Pens then turned the puck over to the Thrashers. It lead to a scoring chance by Kovalchuk, but Conks blocked the shot. Recchi was right there for the rebound, but Conks blocked him, too. With only 33.9 seconds left in the period, Sydor went down behind Conklin after taking a high stick to the face from Pascal Dupuis. The Pens soared down the ice towards Lehtonen on the delayed penalty. Lehtonen blocked the shot, but Whitney crashed hard into the goal post and went down, too. Fortunately, neither of the defensemen were seriously hurt. The Pens didn't score on their abbreviated power play, and the period ended with the teams tied at one goal each.

Sid watches Lehtonen make a save.

During the intermission, FSN Pittsburgh showed a clip they called "The Best of Mic'd Up." (If you aren't aware, when a Penguin is mic'd up, he wears a small microphone for the duration of the game so that the audience can get an opportunity to hear some of what is said on the ice.) Several players were featured, but the three best clips in my humble opinion were as follows:
  1. Jarrko Ruutu was singing Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting). Later he skated over to the bench and captured Penguins' equipment manager Dana Heinze singing as well. Heinze stopped singing, so Ruutu leaned in and asked him to sing a little more. Heinze said, "Are you mic'd up?" Ruutu replied, "Yep!" and the two men shared a laugh. [Late Edit: An anonymous commenter (see below) pointed out that it was Head Trainer Chris Stewart here, not Heinze. Apologies for the misidentification.]
  2. Big George Laraque was on the ice practicing with Gary Roberts (prior to his broken leg, of course). After Roberts took his shots, Laraque was zinging Roberts. First he said, "That was weak! You need to lift some weights!" Then he said, "[FSN Reporter Dan] Potash shoots harder than that!" Then he said, "What are we, the muffin line?!" Only Laraque could say those things to Roberts and not lose his teeth! ;)
  3. The last clip they showed was of Laraque and Crosby screaming and celebrating Laraque's first goal as a Penguin (which Sid assisted on). They were joined by a few other Pens players in their celebration. It wasn't funny like the first two I mentioned, but it was really neat to hear the guys' jubilation, especially because it was a glimpse of what it's like to be a member of this close-knit Penguins team.
The second period began with 1:26 left on the penalty to Dupuis. We were told that the Pens didn't skate yesterday. Instead, they had a day at the gym and then went to dinner as a team. (What a lucky waiter or waitress!!!) The quote of the day came from Recchi, who said that it was going to be "really hard to play against friends." Just off the faceoff, Sir Sidney took a stick to the crotch courtesy of Kevin Doell. He took a second to recover (and probably thank the inventor of the protective cup) then returned to play like a maniac again until Holik drilled him into the boards head first. While lying on the ice, Sid managed to poke the puck out of the Pens' zone. He then got up, left his stick behind, and made his way to the bench to recover. But you know Sid: he doesn't get mad, he gets even - usually by scoring... The Pens didn't score on this power play. Then the Thrashers went nuts throwing shot after shot at Conklin. Conks flopped around like a fish out of water to make all of the saves. Later, on a rush, Recchi chopped the stick out of Sykora's hands (no call). Recchi made a quick pass to Kovalchuk, who took a hard shot on Conks, who made a nice save.

Popovic and Jeff Taffe battle for control of the puck.

Geno took a shot from one knee but the shot hit a stick and went up and over the goal. Army passed the puck to Sid. The Saint spun around several times to protect the puck. He then dropped the puck off for Kris Letang. Letang's pass then bounced off Army's skate right to Sidney, who blasted it past Lehtonen for his 20th goal of the season. He's now tied with Geno for the most goals among the Penguins team. [Pens 2, Thrashers 1] Later, Tobias Enstrom played the puck with his skate as he came off the bench. As a result, the Thrashers were called for having too many men on the ice. On the ensuing power play, the Pens twice were unable to get to rebounds left by Lehtonen. After that, 3 Pens players chopped at the puck, but somehow Lehtonen managed to cover it up. When the penalty was about to expire, Lehtonen went behind the cage to clear the puck out. Sidney was in front of the WIDE OPEN net as the puck came right to him. He was thisclose to being able to glove the puck down, but he just couldn't control it. The Pens didn't score on the power play.

Kovalchuk took a hard spill into the boards after he was attempting to slow down when the play was whistled down but he somehow stepped on the puck. He looked dazed but wasn't seriously injured. With less than 2 minutes left in the second period, Sykora was given a 4 minute high sticking penalty. (This time it was actually Sykora's stick and there was blood, so the penalty was just.) On the Thrashers' power play, Staal nearly got a shorthanded chance but was backchecked before he could get a shot on goal. The second period ended, and the Thrashers didn't score on the abbreviated power play.

The third period began with the Thrashers having 2:46 seconds with the man advantage. During the Thrashers' power play, Conklin lay down on the ice thinking he had the puck covered. He didn't, and Holik jammed the puck into the net underneath Conklin's pad. [Pens 2, Thrashers 2] The Pens would get a chance to go ahead with another power play after Mark Popovic was called for delay of game after he popped the puck over the glass, but the Thrashers seemed to have more scoring chances on this Pens power play than the Pens did. Neither team scored while Popovic was in the box. Later, Maxime Talbot's stick broke on a faceoff. He smashed into a Thrasher on his way to the bench to pick up a new stick to prevent that player from getting the puck.

Recchi battles Sydor against the wall for control of the puck.

Sidney and Geno cycled the puck down low. Sid ended up behind the cage. Holik came in and pinned Sidney against the cage on Lehtonen's left side. While he was tied up, Lehtonen took a quick cheap shot to the back of Sid's head. (You stay classy, Kari.) Of course, there was no call. Then, after Vyacheslav Kozlov hit Talbot hard (and kind of late), they began fighting. Their teammates quickly moved in and it became a scrum between the teams. Talbot and Koslov were both given 2 minutes for roughing. Neither team scored on the 4-on-4. The third period ended with the teams tied at 2.

During the overtime period, Dupuis chopped the stick out of Brooks Orpik's hands (no call here, either) then almost scored. Conks made a beautiful save to keep the Pens alive. Hossa and Todd White had a 2-on-1 chance, but Conks made another nice save. Geno set Staal up, but Lehtonen made a great save. Finally, with less than 5 seconds left in OT, Sid made a last ditch effort to end the game by setting up Letang, but Letang couldn't get enough power behind the shot.

Sid beats White to the puck.

The Thrashers decided to go first on the shootout. Here are the results:
  1. Koslov → Conklin had to rollover a few times, but he made the save.
  2. Sykora → A glove save by Lehtonen prevents a score.
  3. Hossa → The shot hit off the post and trickled towards the goal line. Conks swept it out literally just in time to make the save.
  4. Letang → The glove save by Lehtonen ruins Letang's NHL perfect shootout record.
  5. Kovalchuk → Conklin fell but recovered to prevent the puck from sliding over the goal line.
  6. Crosby → Lehtonen got a piece of Sid's shot, so it popped up and over the goal.
  7. Recchi → SCORES on the top left side of Conklin.
  8. Malkin → He fooled Lehtonen, who went down, but Geno didn't get the puck up high enough to go over Lehtonen's pads.
The Thrashers won the game. The Penguins next face the NY Rangers. The game will be broad cast on the Versus network at 7:00pm Eastern on Monday. GO PENS!!!


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