Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pens v Flyers (W 4-3)

YES!!! We finally got our first win of the season against the Flyers! What a game! It started out slowly. The first 10 minutes of the first period were played very cautiously by both teams. They seemed to be feeling one another out. Finally, we started to see that bad blood between the teams when Mad Max Talbot took a delayed slashing penalty. As the play was whistled down, Max got a little aggressive with Joffrey Lupul. For his efforts he was given a double minor totaling 4 minutes in the box. On the very first play of the Flyers' power play, Jordan Staal got the puck and screamed down the ice for a shorthanded chance, but Mike Richards backchecked him nicely to keep him at bay. Then just a few seconds before Max's first penalty expired, Pittsburgh native R.J. Umberger scored. [Pens 0, Flyers 1] Despite the fact that the Flyers had a virtual 5-on-3 after Staal lost his stick, the Flyers were unable to score on their advantage from Max's second penalty. When Max emerged from the box, the Pens got the puck to him for a breakaway chance, but Martin Biron blocked Max's shot. Bob Errey and Paul Steigerwald then told us that Ryan and Abby Malone have named their newborn son William Ryan Malone. He was born on Friday and weighed in at 8 pounds 1 ounce. Congrats to the Malone family!

Staal is a beast.

Staal took a shot that rang off the goal post to keep the Flyers ahead by a goal. I seriously can't tell you enough times that the Staal-Max-Erik Christensen line is magical. They work together well, they're all tenacious, and their strengths seem to counteract each others' weaknesses almost flawlessly. This afternoon was no different: one play in particular saw Max using his foot soccer-style to get the puck to his stick. He then passed the puck to Crusher, who blasted a shot at Biron. Max was still coming in from behind. Biron was unable to control the rebound, and Max took a hard shot at it but was just wide of the goal. FSN showed another clip of Sidney practicing with the team. This morning he took the puck while behind the net and popped it up over the net and then came to the front as the puck came over the net and batted it into the net over the goal line behind the goalie. Steigy and Errey correctly pointed out that a move like that would have brought the house down at the All Star skills competition. Errey then mused, "I wonder if Don Cherry would have gotten mad at that move?" To which I say who really gives a damn about Don Cherry?

Conks stops a shot by Richards.

Then a breakout pass from Ryan Whitney, which was helped by a slight chip from Malone, connected with the stick of a speeding Evgeni Malkin. The Flyers defensemen were all over Geno, and Biron was on the left side of the net ready and waiting for a shot by Geno. Instead he passed the puck to a wide open Petr Sykora. You know exactly what happened. [Pens 1, Flyers 1] The Pens were amazing on the very next shift. They had good puck possession and a couple of scoring chances, but the play was whistled down after Jarrko Ruutu is challenged by thug Steve Downie after Ruutu put a nice, clean hit on him. The fight was a bit of a draw, with each man landing approximately the same number of hits on the other, but I'm giving the overall win to Ruutu because, after a good, long fight, Downie simply turned tail and ran (well, okay - skated) away. The men were given five minute fighting majors.

A punch from Ruutu knocks Downie's helmet off...

...then Downie does the same to Ruutu - before running away from the fight. Apparently Downie is one of those "dish it out but can't take it" kind of guys.

Daryl Sydor's stick was held up by Mike Knuble. He ended up losing his stick altogether. Despite the fact that it happened right in clear view of the ref, no call was made. (Remember this incident...) The magical line of Max-Staal-Crusher came out and cycled the puck for a while. They had a few chances, but Biron stopped them. Then both teams were given coincidental high sticking penalties, Lasse Kukkonen for the Flyers and Crusher for the Pens. On the ensuing 4-on-4 and with just over a minute left in the period, a brawl developed between the four Flyers players and Malone and Malkin. Errey took exception to the fact that Rob Scuderi and Sergei Gonchar didn't come to their forwards' aide. Malkin got the worst of it when Scott Hartnell punched him in the face, sending him down hard to the ice. Hartnell would pay for it by going to the box for roughing. The Pens had more than a minute of the advantage on the 4-on-3. Geno fired a shot at Biron in the last seconds of the period, and Staal did his best to shuffle in the rebound, but the first period ended with the cross-state rivals tied at one goal apiece.

Conks minds his net.

The second period began with the Pens enjoying about 45 seconds left on their power play. A mere 38 seconds into the period, Gonchar took a shot from the blue line. Malone created the traffic in front of the net that allowed the puck to get past Biron. [Pens 2, Flyers 1] Crusher then tried to redirect an awesome pass from Talbot, but his stick shattered. I wondered to myself as Errey wondered on the air, "Did Crusher get slashed on that play?" There was no replay to clarify what happened. Now, remember that first hold by Knuble on Sydor? He did it again and got away with it again. Unreal. Then, in a moment reminiscent of Geno's brick wall move on Alexander Ovechkin from the January 21 meeting with the Caps, Geno stood his ground and dodged just a bit to avoid a check from Richards. As a result, Richards ended up being the one to go down in a heap and losing his helmet. When Geno finally went to the bench a few minutes after that, equipment manager Dana Heinze was checking out Geno's right elbow.

Geno stands up on Richards.

A little while later, FSN cut to a shot of Natalia and Vladamir Malkin. They traveled all the way from Russia to watch their boy have an amazing night. Then Mario Lemieux's luxury box was shown. Mario was watching the game with Gary Roberts, who was drinking a bottle of water that, to the surprise of both Steigy and Errey, was not Fiji brand water. (It is apparently the brand of water Roberts prefers - even to the point of bringing it with him on flights.) But wait!!! There is no Sidney Crosby anywhere to be seen! (Perhaps he was in the loo?) Back on the ice, Jeff Taffe and Geno both had amazing shifts. On Geno's shift, he made an insane spinning move to get around the Flyers d-men. Biron recognized that this was going to mean trouble, so he came out - WAY out - to meet Geno and strip the puck away from him.

Colby Armstrong and Kukkonen had a little back and forth going on. Army drilled Kukkonen first. Then on the next play Kukkonen returned the favor and got an icing call against the Pens for his efforts. Then on the play after that, Army hit Kukkonen again. Finally, both men returned to their respective benches without coming to blows with one another. Umberger then rang a shot off the goal post. The Pens' top line got a series of good chances, but Biron stopped them all. Then with just over a minute left in the period, Geno passed the puck to Sykora, who then passed the puck right back to Geno. Like a torpedo, Geno blasted the puck on goal. [Pens 3, Flyers 1] FSN showed Geno's mom Natalia smiling and clapping away. (For anyone who cares, Geno looks exactly like his mom!) The period ended with the Pens enjoying a 2-goal lead.

The team congratulates Geno for his goal.

The third period began with Umberger taking a shot on Ty Conklin. Conks made a stunning stick save, but neither he nor Scuderi could clear the rebound out of danger. Just 46 seconds into the period, Umberger got his own rebound and lifted it up and over Conks. [Pens 3, Flyers 2] Then Whitney took a penalty for hooking Jeff Carter, who was on a breakaway. The nausea that usually plagues me during Pens/Flyers games returned, especially since Jim Dowd got away with high sticking Scuderi on the power play right in front of the ref. UNREAL. The Flyers, however, did not score on their advantage. As FSN went to commercial, Umberger and Kris Beech were in each others' faces.

Gonch keeps the puck away from Carter.

Then there was an extended period of outstanding puck possession by the Pens that resulted in chances by Taffe and Malkin that were denied by Biron. Geno then got the puck to Kris Letang, who was wide open at the blue line. Letang, showing the great restraint and patience of a veteran, held the puck until Taffe was able to occupy the defensemen in front of Biron. Letang saw his opportunity when Biron went down low. Letang shot the puck nicely up and over Biron's shoulder. [Pens 4, Flyers 2] The insurance goal would be the key to the Pens' win. Malkin later broke his stick in the Pens' zone after a crazy shift by the Flyers. He knew he had to clear the puck, but in doing so, he picked the puck up and elevated it with his hand. He was given a penalty for it. The ref jumped the gun on the whistle, though, denying the Flyers a chance for a delayed penalty. Again, just after the Flyers' power play began, Staal took the puck and thundered down the ice for a shorthand chance. Again he didn't score, but this time he drew a hooking penalty on Kimmo Timonen. Neither team scored on the 4-on-4 or their respective abbreviated power plays. Geno briefly left the ice after his penalty with a skate issue that Heinze quickly resolved.

Coach Michel Therrien is shown behind the Pens' bench.

With just a few seconds over a minute left in the game, Biron was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. The puck went down towards Conks. He came out of the net to play the puck as he usually does but ended up getting the blade of his stick caught in the crack of the wall where the Zamboni door opens. The puck went right to Richards, who had been bearing down on Conks. Richards passed it out to Hartnell, who easily put it in the wide open empty net. [Pens 4, Flyers 3] The remaining 33 seconds of the game were a flurry of Flyers trying desperately to tie the game, but it didn't happen. The Pens cleared the puck out and the clock ticked down. As the game ended, Malone and Timonen collided at neutral ice. It was accidental - neither man was looking in the direction of the other - and in a show of good sportsmanship, Malone came back around to attend to Timonen, who took the brunt of the hit and appeared to be hurting. The post game interview subject was the McDonald's player of the game - Geno, of course! With 1 goal and 3 assists, he surely made his visiting parents proud. Dan Potash tried to ask him about it, but Geno's English still isn't great and it seemed like he didn't quite understand what Potash was asking him. Honestly, though, I don't care if he's mute as long as he keeps playing the way he has been! :)

The Pens, who now have a 3 point lead over the New Jersey Devils for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, will face the Boston Bruins on Wednesday at 7:30pm Eastern. GO PENS!!!!

Late Edit: As I went to update the Pens' stats in "The Sidney Crosby Monitor" section, I realized that I've given them credit for 309 wins for the past 3 days!! HAHA - I'm surprised none of you called me on it! :P


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