Thursday, February 07, 2008

Pens v Islanders (W 4-3)

Okay. Remember that Sid wore a jersey with a special Hockey Fights Cancer logo patch during the January 12th game against the Atlanta Thrashers? Well, the auction has ended and some crazy lucky person is now in debt for a staggering $15,000. Longtime Friend of The Show Eric B. of The Sidney Crosby Spotlight has all the details.

Now, this is going to be a long recap because tonight's game was a heated division rivalry game, and tons of stuff happened. We even got a few Sidney updates!!! As for the game itself, it was rough - pretty much no check went unfinished. Early in the game, the second line (Max "SUPERSTAR" Talbot, Erik Christensen, and Jordan Staal) got a few really good chances, but Rick DiPietro stopped them all. Evgeni Malkin went to hit an Isle but ended up going down in a weird way. He went to the bench and put a bag of ice on his lower lip. Newly recalled Islander Jeremy Colliton made his presence felt with a huge hit on Daryl Sydor; just afterwards, an Islander drilled Jordan Staal into the boards. Josef Vasicek finally took the first shot for the Isles, but Ty Conklin blocked him. However, just a few minutes later, Conks came out to play the puck. He found himself in the no play zone in the corner. (You see where this is going, right?) He couldn't get back in front of the net in time. The Pens' defensemen stayed motionless behind the net like deer caught in the headlights as Mike Comrie got the pass from the corner and pushed the puck into the empty net. [Pens 0, Isles 1] It was the kind of thing that makes you so mad that you want to slam your own hand in the car door.

That's going to hurt tomorrow.

Then FSN Pittsburgh cut to a shot of Sidney sitting in Mario's luxury box (which looks awfully crowded tonight). He appeared to be sending a text message. Later, Kris Letang worked like a dog to get the puck out of the Penguins' zone. He must have tried to clear the puck at least 5 or 6 times. Finally he was able to clear it and draw a tripping penalty on Sean Bergenheim. During the first few seconds of the Pens' power play, Ryan Malone was robbed of a goal by DiPietro. Aaah, but the Isles didn't get the puck out of the zone. Petr Sykora got the puck and sent it straight to Ryan Whitney, who promptly sent it right past DiPietro. Now, if you weren't aware, Coach Michel Therrien was, um, not exactly thrilled with Whit's performance in the last game. He publicly called the defenseman out following the blown lead loss to the Devils. Whit accepted responsibility like a man saying, "I have been with him for four years. It is tough love a lot of the time. Whether it is behind a closed door or through (the media), it doesn't really matter. The message is sent, and I understand where he is coming from."

Whitney must have really taken Therrien's tongue lashing as constructive criticism, as he scored 2 goals and an assist and earned the Player of the Game.
(That's him in the upper left corner. He's the effing player of the game, and as of 11:00pm Eastern, this is the best picture I can find of him from tonight's game.)

Then Comrie and Talbot dropped their gloves and helmets. It was basically a stalemate at first, until Comrie attempted to slewfoot Max. The men exchanged a few blows, with Max going down to his knee at one point then quickly getting back up to deliver a hard punch to Comrie's head. Comrie went down and the men were separated and penalized. Staal later tried to get a breakaway, but he just couldn't get around Aaron Johnson. Johnson would pay for that, though, when seconds later he was drilled into the boards by Big Georges Laraque. As FSN returned from commercial, they showed footage of Sid skating this morning. He had on his equipment and was carrying a stick doing laps around the rink. Therrien stated that he was "more than pleased" with Sid's progress. Friend of The Show Allison Y. hooked me up again with a link to a story about Sid's unchanged prognosis. It looks like people heard Sid was skating again and automatically assumed he'd be rejoining the Pens soon. The official status of his return remains the same as the day it was issued. He is not expected back until sometime in March.

Conks just makes the save.

Malone was getting close to making something happen when the net came up from behind on DiPietro to stop the play. Then Geno tried to set up Malone, but he was back checked before he could make the pass. Vasicek tried to score on Conks from the corner, but Conks made the save. Army broke his stick so for a few moments it was as if the Isles had a power play. Fortunately the Pens were able to get the puck out of their own zone. The first period ended with a 1-1 draw.

During the intermission, Bob Errey spoke with athletic trainer Chris Stuart about the dreaded high ankle sprain. The treatment, Stuart said, is to immobilize the ankle for 10 to 14 days then gradually increase the movement of the ankle over a period of days or weeks. They again showed Sidney in Mario's box; this time he was chatting away on his cell phone.

The second period began with Rob Scuderi taking a stick to the bridge of his nose. They showed a closeup of the nasty cut as it was bleeding. (He would return to the ice for his next shift.) Just off the next faceoff, the puck was sent to Whit out at the blue line. He sent it sailing on goal. Malone stuck his stick out and deflected the puck right through DiPietro's 5-hole. [Pens 2, Isles 1]

Today a forward, tomorrow a father. (Congrats to the Malones from TSCS!!!)

Shortly afterwards, a small scrum developed between the teams in the corner. Former and current Pen Kris Beech (who finally got a visa) was then called for tripping. On the Isles' power play, Staal took the puck and was able to wind around the Isles defensemen but at the last minute was poke checked by DiPietro. Ruslan Fedotenko made the Pens pay by shooting the puck into the net just below Conklin's glove. [Pens 2, Isles 2]

DiPietro poke checks Staal.

Later, Conks blocked a shot by an Islander. The puck then rolled through the blue paint and past an open spot. Fortunately Sergei Gonchar was there to gain control and clear the puck. Then Andy Sutton went to the box for interference. On the ensuing power play, Geno took a shot that DiPietro blocked but didn't cover. Whit showed us how it's done by scoring on the rebound. [Pens 3, Isles 2] The second line played like a bunch of beasts for the entire game. That mix of Crusher, Staal, and Max is really amazing. Twice they were able to come thisclose to scoring (damn you, DiPietro!!!), but they did draw a penalty for their efforts. Sutton found himself back in the box, this time for hooking. Even though Beech had a nice looking shot from his knees, the Pens did not score on this power play. Brendan Witt took a hard slapshot from the blue line that hit Colby Armstrong in the leg. He was definitely hurting, but like the trooper he is, he later returned for his next shift. The second period ended with the Pens ahead by a goal.

Max and Frans Nielsen collide.

The first five minutes of the third period were pretty uneventful. There was a lot of up and down action, but nothing happened that stood out. Then Staal absolutely plastered Sutton into the boards, and Beech made another really nice pass to Army. Army backhanded the puck on goal, but DiPietro blocked the shot. Laraque then slammed into Richard Park, almost sending him over the boards in front of the Penguins' bench. FSN then showed footage of Mario (who's rumored to be in the best shape of his life, haha) skating in this morning's skate with a child who is fighting the same disease that Mario conquered (Hodgkin's disease). The encounter was orchestrated by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The Pens celebrate a goal.

Staal had a wide open shot on DiPietro, but his shot hit the crossbar!!! Then Geno set Sykora up with a nice centering pass, but the puck came off the heel of Sykora's stick and had no speed behind it. Army was assessed a tripping penalty. On the Islanders' power play, Comrie went top shelf on Conks to tie the game with single digit seconds left on Army's penalty. [Pens 3, Isles 3] Geno later ran right over Witt. As the two men returned to their skates, Geno grabbed at the back of his leg. We thought for a minute that he was hurt, but then he simply continued playing, so I assume he's okay. Then with just 3:39 left on the clock, Letang decided to mimic Comrie's last goal: DiPietro was down low on the shortside as Letang shot the puck from the corner up and over DiPietro's shoulder. [Pens 4, Isles 3]

Army laid a big hit on Johnson. Just before the one minute mark, DiPietro was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. On the next faceoff (which the Pens didn't win), Crusher hurried to steal the puck and pass it to Staal. Staal went down the ice towards the empty net, but he was surrounded by Islanders. He pulled the trigger and just missed the empty net by inches. The Isles took it back down on Conks. He threw out his arm and covered the puck. The ref whistled the play down. The Isles meanwhile were still stabbing away at the puck. It squirted out of Conklin's grasp and into the back of the net. The goal was immediately waived off. Upon the replay, it was really, really a close call. It wasn't crystal clear if Conks had successfully frozen the puck, and the puck met the net at about the same time as the whistle blew. Fortunately for us, the ref's ruling stood. There was a mere 0.4 second left for the faceoff. The Pens got 2 points in a HUGE division win. They are now tied with the Flyers for first place.

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