Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pens v Panthers (W 3-2)

Well, they don't call them the Comeback Kids for nothing...

The Pens came out swinging as soon as the first puck was dropped. It seemed like they did everything except score in the first couple of minutes of the first period. Brooks Orpik took the night's first penalty pretty early on for tripping. It was a delayed penalty, and Tomas Vokoun left the ice in favor of the extra attacker. As he got to the bench, the puck was headed down towards the empty net. The crowd (and I) gasped as the puck missed going in only by about a foot. Neither the Pens nor the Panthers scored on the Panthers' power play. Evgeni Malkin showed off some fancy footwork as he went inside then outside then inside again with the puck to get up and around Olli Jokinen. He then passed the puck to Sergei Gonchar, but Vokoun somehow made the save on his shot. Then Colby Armstrong had a chance of his own when he tried to sneak from behind the net and put the puck around the goal post under Vokoun's pad, but Vokoun put his pad down to the ice to stop him. That sequence helped the Pens draw a penalty, though. On the Pens' power play, Mad Max Talbot just missed a chance on an open net because Bryan Allen used his stick on Talbot's stick to prevent him from getting to the loose puck as it drifted through the blue paint. The Pens didn't score on their advantage.

Army got a penalty later for tripping. On the Panthers' power play, Ryan Whitney made an attempt to clear the puck by sending it from the corner through the middle of the ice. Kamil Kreps managed to stop the speeding puck and fire a shot on Ty Conklin. Conks, however, made a great save to keep the game scoreless. The Panthers did not score on the power play. As the penalty ended, Jordan Staal got the puck and went 1-on-1 with a Panther. Staal was able to fire a nice shot, but it rang of the damn goal post!!! At the end of his shift, Jarrko Ruutu ran over Kreps. The crowd responded with an appreciative, "RUUUUUUUUUU!!!"

FSN Pittsburgh showed yet another clip of Sid practicing. He participated in yesterday's practice with the team but today chose to skate alone before the rest of the team had today's practice. He also didn't speak to the media afterwards. This is leading to much speculation that his return is eminent. Bob Errey said, "Maybe he circled that Montreal date [this Thursday] on his calendar!"

After Max tripped up in neutral ice, Kreps got control of the puck and took it to the Pens' zone. He fired a wicked shot that Conks blocked. The shot was so hard, however, that the rebound came way out and found the stick of David Booth. It was Booth against Conks, who was already somewhat low from the first save, and Booth came out the winner. [Pens 0, Panthers 1]

As the next faceoff was set up, Booth and Tyler Kennedy had words. The puck was dropped and so were the gloves. It started because Booth put his stick between Kennedy's legs and raised it up. (THANK GOD for jockstraps.) Kennedy used his own stick to push Booth back. They dropped their gloves and went at it. Kennedy fired the first punches, then Booth pulled Kennedy to the ice. As Kennedy lay flat on his back, Booth began punching him. To add insult to injury (haha), Kennedy was given an extra 2 minute penalty for roughing on top of the 5 minute penalty for the fight. Jeff Taffe served the roughing penalty for Kennedy, and the Panthers did not capitalize on their advantage. Staal and Army turned the desperation up a notch in the last minute of the period but couldn't manage to get a goal. Ruutu fired a shot in the last 5 seconds of the period that just missed the goal. The period ended with the Panthers up by a goal.

Now, I don't know what happened to our defense in the second period. Without Conks, we're talking about a 0-5 game right now. But I'm getting ahead of myself here... Just after the drop of the puck, it looked like Geno took a high stick, but nothing was called. He then was treated to the butt end of Kreps's stick in the chops. Again, nothing was called for that, but as Geno was expressing himself, we learned that Branislav Mezei was going to be called for hooking. The Pens did not score on this advantage. Army went into the boards hard at one point, and Errey couldn't resist making fun of his nose again: "Hockey hasn't been good to that nose!" Ugh. Thankfully, Army was okay.

Later, Gonchar got trapped behind the play way out of position, which directly lead to Allen getting a chance to send an outlet pass to Nathan Horton for a breakaway chance. Just as Panthers fans everywhere stood up on their feet, so too did Ty Conklin. What a goalie! Later Booth took another penalty this time for hooking. Now you should remember, this is a Penguins power play, because evidently the Panthers did not. First, Ville Peltonen got a shorthanded chance that Conks successfully blocked. Then Daryl Sydor had a pass jump over his stick and go right to the stick of Brett McLean. Sydor hooked McLean as he took off on a breakaway. The ref signaled the delayed call, but it wouldn't matter: McLean scored a shorthanded goal. [Pens 0, Panthers 2]

The Pens got a chance to cut the lead in half when Taffe and a Panther were battling to get to the puck as it was heading towards the goal through the Panthers' zone. Vokoun decided to come way out of the crease to help his teammate out. Taffe tripped over Vokoun. He went flying into the net as his stick went flying up in the air. Meanwhile, Vokoun was still in the middle of the ice out of the crease with the rest of the Pens speeding towards him. He smothered the puck where he lay. That's a no-no, so Vokoun was given a delay of game penalty. It was all for naught, as the Pens did not score on their power play. With a little more than 90 seconds left in the period, Mezei took a penalty for holding. The Pens didn't score on this abbreviated power play. The second ended with the Panthers up by two.

The Pens didn't score on the remaining 25 seconds of a man advantage to start the third period. A few minutes later, Staal took a penalty for interference. The Panthers did nothing with their power play. As Staal was released from the box, Geno blocked a pass with his skate then took possession. He went streaking down the ice with Army just a few steps behind. With Staal just out of the box, the Pens were 3-on-2. Geno nicely dropped the puck off for Army, who blasted a shot past Vokoun into the back of the net. [Pens 1, Panthers 2]

Nothing noteworthy happened then until a shift by the top line had both Geno and Petr Sykora going down in what were likely dives. Neither man was called for their actions - at first. A few minutes later, McLean was called for slashing Geno, who went down as a result. The ref decided that it was suspicious because it didn't take a lot of force to take Geno down, so he was given a penalty for diving. Errey correctly remarked that the penalty was likely "carried over from the last dive." The fans at the Mellon booed the refs mercilessly. (I would have too, if I had been there.) On the ensuing 4-on-4, both Ryan Malone and Sykora had good chances, but Vokoun was able to stop them both. Vokoun was playing the puck behind the net as Max came around behind him. Max ended up knocking the stick out of Vokoun's hand as the puck came to the Pens. Vokoun was without his stick in front of the net, but Gonchar fired the puck high, so it went directly into Vokoun's glove. Neither team scored on the 4-on-4. Geno had a chance as he emerged from the box, but again Vokoun stopped him.

As the final 4 minutes of the game began to tick away, Geno was dominating control of the puck. He made a series of passes that got Paul Steigerwald completely flustered. (Admittedly, the passes were gorgeous, but Steigy was overdoing it with the phrase "absolutely beautiful.") Anyhoo, Geno sent the puck diagonally from the corner to Whit, who fired a shot that hit Malone's leg and went into the net to tie the game. [Pens 2, Panthers 2] (With this assist, Geno officially moved ahead of Alex Ovechkin in the scoring race!!!)

Staal made a huge play by backchecking Jokinen then finishing his check in a BIG way, sending Jokinen into the boards. With only 1:05 left in the game, Geno was hauled down by Jay Bouwmeester, who went to the box for hooking. There was glass trouble, so the Pens got a freebie timeout. They came to the power play looking to win. With a mere 22.4 seconds left in the game, Conklin sent the puck to Gonchar, who sent the puck to Malone. Malone barged past three Panthers and kept possession of the puck. He turned to his backhand as he powered through and ended up losing the puck. It glided right in front of Vokoun, and Malone was able to go back to his forehand and poke the puck into Vokoun's 5-hole. As this is happening, Malone was attempting to turn to his left. He was hit by a Panther and sent into Vokoun, knocking him down. As a result, the War Room was called... IT STANDS!!! [Pens 3, Panthers 2] The Pens fended the Panthers off for the last seconds of the game to rob them of 2 points. Malone rightfully earned the McDonald's Player of the Game, though Conklin (who scored an assist on the last goal) was a big part - maybe the biggest part - of the reason the Pens were able to salvage this game. The Pens won the game and now are tied for first in the Atlantic Division!!! :)

This Thursday, the Pens face the Montreal Canadiens. Will this be the game when we finally see the return of the Saint???


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