Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pens v Devils (W 2-0)

Hello again, everyone! First - I want to thank you all so much for the good luck wishes. I really appreciate all the kind words!!! :) You guys are the BEST!!! I think it went really well, but I won't know for sure until the end of the week...

Last night's game was terrible. I think Ryan Malone's intermission interview pretty much summed up the entire game. (For those that didn't see it, he was almost at a loss for words when asked what the Isles were doing to keep the Pens down: "I don't even know what we're doing out there. It's not good." Agreed. It was awful.) The Pens didn't look like they even cared whether they won or lost that game.

Tonight saw a completely different Penguins team, though the Devils were no slackers, either. Marc-Andre Fleury was the netminder, while Ryan Whitney was bumped over to play left wing. Right out of the gate, the so-called "Steel City Line" of Malone, Evgeni Malkin, and Petr Sykora - so named because Bugsy is from the Steel City of Pittsburgh while Geno and Syko played in Russia's Steel City Magnitogorsk - went to work. Daryl Sydor sent a long lead pass to Malone for a breakaway chance, but Martin Brodeur shut the 5-hole door. Patrik Elias earned the night's first penalty. He was called for interference. On the ensuing power play, Malone had another near miss after Brodeur got a stick down. Bugsy wouldn't miss again when he moved from the front of the net to the high slot to capitalize on a nice pass from Whit from the corner. [Pens 1, Devils 0]

Really, from this point until the last four minutes of the game both teams were pretty evenly matched. They moved the puck up and down the ice, but neither team could get a goal. Tensions were running high as tempers flaired. The first such incident occurred after Dainius Zubrus clipped Flower in the chin as he crashed the net. A scrum developed between the two teams. FSN Pittsburgh told us that Sidney participated in this morning's optional skate with his teammates. He looks good but still has no set return date. Hopefully it will be soon, but not too soon.

Jordan Staal used his leg to block a shot from Elias. He left the ice wincing in pain but returned for his next shift as usual. Somehow, Brodeur was able to make a beautiful save on Mad Max Talbot after Jarrko Ruutu crashed the net and took a piece of Brodeur on the way. Brodeur was down and out of position, but he prevented Max from getting the puck up and over him into the wide open net. With 2 minutes left in the period, Max was called for high sticking. The Devils did not score on their advantage. The period ended with a huge scrum, and the Pens still ahead by a goal.

During the intermission, there was a nice piece about Georges Laraque. It detailed the various charity work he does throughout the year. He works with kids doing hockey clinics, as well as giving his money and his time to various charities. He's been nominated for the NHL Foundation Player Award several times (he is again this year), but he has yet to win it. (Maybe this is his year!!!) Laraque said that he was inspired to start working in his community after watching the Kevin Spacey film Pay It Forward.

When the second period started, we learned that Brooks Orpik and Zubrus both taking cross-checking penalties in the aftermath of that period ending scrum. Neither team scored on the 4-on-4. Later, Kris Letang lost his stick. While trying to defend the net, Letang lightly pushed Arron Asham, who went flying into Flower, knocking the goalie down. Sheldon Brookbank, meanwhile, got the puck in front and easily put it into the back of the open net. The Devils and their fans began to celebrate as MAF slammed his stick to the ice in frustration. But wait! The referee was feverishly waiving his arms to signal NO GOAL. What a gift!!! :) Devils coach Brent Sutter, of course, didn't see it that way. He looked as though he might have an aneurysm as he grabbed the stick of the nearest player and began beating it feverishly against the boards in an effort to get ref's attention to object.

Things got nasty again when David Clarkson and Marian Hossa had a foot race to get to the loose puck in the corner by MAF. Hossa won and cleared the puck. He and Clarkson both headed down the ice towards Brodeur. When shown on the replay in slow motion, it was revealed that Clarkson shortened up on his stick and took a cheap shot at Hossa's head with the butt of his stick. What an ass.

Malone took a penalty on a weak tripping call. The Pens were able to prevent the Devils from registering a single shot on goal during the Devils' power play. The second period ended with yet another scrum as the Pens clung to their one goal lead.

During the third period, the Pens played a more defensive game. They did have a scoring chance early when Hossa knocked the puck out of midair and almost got it past Brodeur. Laraque was then called for tripping. During the Devils' 1-man advantage, Flower made an amazing save on Jamie Langenbrunner. The Devils didn't score on their advantage. Just a few minutes later, the Devils were called for having too many men on the ice. Ruutu was shown laughing and saying "Wooooo!!! I passed it to you on purpose!" to Sergei Brylin, who was the one-man-too-many. (Admit it - if Ruutu wore any other sweater, we'd hate him with a passion! Man, I love that guy!!) Asham served the penalty for the Devils. Even though they were the shorthanded team, the Devils had the best scoring chances on the Pens' power play. Neither team scored while Asham was in the box.

It was right about the 4 minute mark when things started getting insane. The Devils threw everything they had at the Pens, but to no avail. With 1:06 left in the game, Brodeur was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. A Devil (I think it was Brian Gionta) ran over MAF but no call was made. That was a blessing in disguise, though, because the Pens got the puck and went sailing down the ice 2-on-1 towards the empty net. Hossa, who you'll recall missed out on the empty netter when time ran out when the Pens faced the Lightning, had plenty of time to get this one! [Pens 2, Devils 0] The remaining 41.7 seconds ticked down to give Flower his 11th career shutout! (It was his 4th this season!) It was also MAF's 5th consecutive win. Thank God for FLOWER POWER!!! :)

The Pens now have a 4 point lead over the Devils for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. The have now also clinched a playoff berth, as well! Incidentally, playoff tickets go on sale this Friday at 10:00am. This Thursday, the Pens come home to face the Islanders. GO PENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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