Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pens v Sabres (W 4-1)

In their first meeting since the Winter Classic, the Pens and the Sabres kept this game moving at an extremely fast pace. The Sabres outshot the Pens 37-25, but the McDonald's Player of the Game Ty Conklin kept the Penguins in the game and led them to the win. Everyone finished their checks tonight - even if the intended target ducked, the hits just kept coming.

What a goalie! He was the cornerstone for the Pens tonight (as he is most nights he plays).

Early in the first period, Georges Laraque was rammed by Patrick Kaleta, a move that rubbed Laraque the wrong way. He retaliated and pushed Kaleta down to the ice and earned a roughing penalty. (Side note: For some reason, every time the Pens got penalized, the HSBC Arena blared "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" by Dropkick Murphys. I hate it when the bad guys use songs by my band!) On the ensuing power play, Thomas Vanek was sandwiched by Ryan Malone and Rob Scuderi after he repeatedly poked at Conks, who had frozen the puck between his legs. The Sabres did not capitalize on their advantage. The Pens' first real chance came when Jordan Staal stole the puck and passed it to Colby Armstrong. Army was in front of the net but his shot wasn't hard enough to get past Ryan Miller. Malone came storming in to take a chance of his own, but Miller blocked that one, too. The Sabres got a 2-on-1 chance against Daryl Sydor, but Conks made a pretty save on Tim Connolly to keep the game scoreless. Later, the Pens developed a 3-on-1. Petr Sykora took a shot that Miller blocked. Evgeni Malkin then poked at the puck between Miller's knees, which prompted all of the Sabres on the ice to go after Geno.

Conks makes one of many saves on Vanek.

FSN Pittsburgh showed a brief clip of Sid at this morning's optional skate. There was no contact on him this morning, though neither Bob Errey nor Paul Steigerwald explained the reason for that... We also learned that Sid played on a line with Malone and Army yesterday at the practice at Southpointe. Could that be the top line when Sid returns??? After some hard work by the top line, Mad Max Talbot took a shot that Miller just got his shoulder up in time to prevent it from going across the goal line. Miller just made the save - even though he blocked the shot, the puck still managed to ring off the crossbar. A little later, Geno and Sykora went on a 2-on-1 rush. Geno decided to take the shot (which was blocked), even though Sykora was wide open in front of the wide open net. Then the Sabres took a shot on Conks that he was able to block. Vanek was there for the rebound; however, he missed the wide open net because Kris Letang got his stick in the way just in time.

The Sabres turned the puck over with a drop pass at the blue line, but the Pens turned it right back over with a cross ice pass. Fortunately, the Sabres went offsides, and the play was whistled down. With about 30 seconds left in the period, Conks came way out to catch the puck. He didn't want to take a penalty like Dany Sabourin took in the last game, so he went back to the crease and then tossed the puck into the near corner. That play lead to a 3-on-2 in favor of the Pens. Sergei Gonchar fired a hard shot on goal, but Miller made a really nice save to preserve the 0-0 tie. With less than 7 seconds left in the period, Max stole the puck and sent it to Geno. He passed the puck to Sykora, whose shot was blocked by Miller. The puck bounced right past Max, but he just couldn't reach it. The period ended scoreless.

Max just can't get to the puck.

Just after the start of the second period, Scuderi took a penalty for interference. During the Sabres' power play, Letang attempted to clear the puck. It jumped up and over the glass and struck a fan in the head. The fan left his seat to seek medical attention, as he sustained a cut on his head. The Sabres didn't score on their power play. Later, Army made a really nice diving pass to get the puck to Sykora, who was streaking down ice. Syko fired a shot diagonally from the wing on the right side of Miller that hit the goal post on the inside and bounced back out. (I bet the neighbors probably heard me screaming a few obscenities after that one.)

Jarrko Ruutu took a foolish penalty for slashing Jaroslav Spacek in the offensive zone. During the Sabres' power play, Geno tried to get a shorthanded chance. He got around one Sabres defenseman but couldn't get past the other one. He went down and slid into Miller, knocking the net off its moorings. For some reason, the refs didn't blow the whistle until the Sabres had taken the puck all the way back down to the Pens' zone. Sydor barked at the refs about it, and Errey questioned why the refs didn't blow the whistle when as soon as the net was dislodged. As a result, the faceoff happened in the Pens' zone, though the Sabres didn't score on their advantage. Scuderi got control of the puck and passed it to Malone. Meanwhile, Ruutu was emerging from the penalty box. Malone saw this and head manned the puck to Ruutu for a breakaway chance. He beautifully backhanded the puck up and over Miller's left shoulder for his 1st goal in 60 games. [Pens 1, Sabres 0]

Ruutu scores!!!

Later, the Pens got a power play (Michael Ryan went to the box for slashing), during which a shot by Staal hit the hand of one of the refs. Play was whistled down so the ref could receive treatment for his injury, which was bleeding. His hand was wrapped up by the medical staff. Seconds after play resumed, Geno fired a shot that went off a stick. The puck took a fortuitous bounce right to Sykora. Of course he scored! [Pens 2, Sabres 0] Staal tried to increase the lead with a hard drive towards Miller. He instead draws a penalty on Ales Kotalik for holding. The Pens didn't score on the advantage. Later, Kaleta put a big hit on Geno. Army didn't appreciate it so he rushed over to Kaleta to let him know how he felt. Kaleta, ever the agitator, shook his hands like he was going to drop his gloves. Army didn't think twice and dropped his gloves in response. Kaleta, however, didn't follow through and kept his gloves on, so Army was given a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Just 27 seconds into the Sabres' power play, Vanek scored. [Pens 2, Sabres 1]

Vanek scored the only Sabres goal.

Geno, Sykora, and Malone each did their best to get the goal back, but somehow Miller (who was getting a LOT of help from his defensemen) kept them from doing so. With less than 8 seconds left in the period, Ruutu went on another rush. He had Miller fooled, but he just couldn't turn to his backhand to get the puck into the wide open net. The second period ended with the Pens up by a goal.

The Pens came back to the ice for the third period with a vengeance. It all began with a great steal by Max. He passed the puck to Sykora just couldn't get a shot on the pass. He kept control of the puck and regrouped in the corner. Then he passed the puck to Geno, who came storming in, but Miller made the save. Then Jeff Taffe had a chance of his own on a wide open net, but he was stripped of the puck from behind just as he went to take his shot. Army, Staal, and Malone then had a crazy shift together. They did everything but score, again thanks to the Sabres d-men. Then Geno took a page out of Sid's book: He took the puck and went speeding towards Miller. He couldn't get around the Sabres d-men this time, so he went down to the ice to give himself a better shot on goal. Unfortunately, Miller made the save. (What a goal that would have been, though!) Ryan Whitney then mishandled the puck, but Sydor was right there to make sure the Sabres didn't get a breakaway because of it.

Brooks Orpik takes a big hit.

After returning from commercial, we learned that Malone has come up with a way to prevent lace bite: He cut a can koozie in half and placed the pieces between his lower legs and the tongues of his skates. Very inventive! :) Just then, Sykora got the puck. He and Max rushed the net. Sykora went to pass the puck to Max, but Geno streaked in from out of nowhere (seriously, until the replay, I had no idea how he even got there) to extend his arm all the way out and, using his stick like a pool cue, poke the puck into the net. [Pens 3, Sabres 1] He was going so fast that he ended up going into the net after the puck did. Jochen Hecht was with Geno the whole time, but for some reason, he didn't try to stop Geno. Army took another penalty, this time for hooking. The Sabres couldn't get past Conks on their advantage. Steigy and Errey remarked that Conklin's got some "good eyes."

Geno pokes the puck in the net...

...but he can't put the brakes on - he goes into the net, too!

After leaping out of the net, Geno celebrates his spectacular goal.

Malkin drew a penalty on Henrik Tallinder for hooking. During the Pens' power play, Errey said that fans should start wearing ties for Ty at Pens' games. Steigy said he agreed and thought it would be great if fans would start wearing their goofiest ties to the games to show support for Conks. Besides a hard shot from Geno that ended up breaking his stick, nothing happened on the Pens' advantage. It was about this time that the Pens started playing keep away. With 1:36 left in the game, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who celebrated his 48th birthday today, pulled Miller in favor of the extra attacker. MISTAKE. Colby and Malone worked together to steal the puck at center ice. Army sent the puck into the empty net to score his 1st goal in 17 games. [Pens 4, Sabres 1] Incidentally, the last time Army scored a goal was in the first seconds of the first period of the Winter Classic. Miller was put back in goal for the remainder of the game. The clock ticked down and the Pens got their 33rd win of the season! The Pens face the Panthers on Tuesday at 7:00pm Eastern. GO PENS!!!!!!!!!!!!


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