Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pens v Lightning (W 4-2)

The first period of tonight's game had several uncalled penalties by both teams - the refs seemed to have forgotten their whistles. Ryan Whitney got away with high sticking Mathieu Darche. That was particularly lucky for the Pens because Darche's lip was cut, so it would have been a four minute penalty had it been called. Evgeni Malkin was attempting to clear the puck a little later and was upended, but no call was made. Darche, back on the ice after getting a couple stitches, high sticked either Mad Max Talbot or Jarrko Ruutu (I didn't see which one) in front of the benches. No call was made, so Ruutu got into a slight shoving match with Darche. The men were separated by a ref before it escalated into a fight. Coach Michel Therrien may have found another magic line in Pascal Dupuis, Jordan Staal, and Marian Hossa. They kept the Lightning on the defensive for several minutes but just couldn't get a goal for their efforts.

The Lightning were given a big gift by the refs when, after Michel Ouellet touched the puck as he came off the bench, they were NOT called for having too many men on the ice. The Pittburgh bench flipped out! We could hear them screaming "TOO MANY MEN, TOO MANY MEN!!" As play continued after the non-call, Ouellet tried to get one of his trademark garbage goals, but Marc-Andre Fleury made a pretty save to stop him. Whit was given a penalty for holding just before FSN Pittsburgh went to commercial. As they came back, Bob Errey, who was in between the benches for tonight's broadcast, asked Coach Therrien about the non-call. As Coach attempted to respond, Errey accidentally shoved the microphone into the Coach's mouth! The Bolts did not score on their advantage.

With just a few minutes left in the period, Brooks Orpik fired the puck on Mike Smith. It bounced off Smith's pads right to where Ruutu was. As Ruutu took his shot, Dan Boyle attempted to clear the puck out of danger. Boyle's stick came up and hit Ruutu in the upper lip/nasal area just as the puck went into the net past Smith. [Pens 1, Lightning 0] Boyle was assessed a penalty for high sticking. He went to the box for 2 minutes. (He would have been given a double minor had Ruutu not scored.) The Pens did not capitalize on the resulting power play. With less than a second left in the period, Sergei Gonchar fired a shot that found the back of the net just after the horn sounded; on review, the puck didn't hit the net until about 3 tenths of a second after the game ended. The period ended with the Pens up by a goal.

The second period began with Dupuis taking a penalty for hooking Filip Kuba - the problem was that it looked like Kuba tripped himself over Pascal's skates. It didn't matter; the Lightning didn't score on this power play. Ruutu later took a penalty for boarding. The Lightning had the puck moving from wing to center to wing back to center. MAF was flopping around like a fish out of water. He had gone down on the ice when Vincent Lecavalier scored a power play goal to even things up. [Pens 1, Lightning 1]

It seemed like deja vu when the Dupuis-Hossa-Staal line again was able to keep the puck in the Lighting's zone for what seemed like forever. They fired shot after shot and despite all their efforts - Dupuis just missed the puck as it slid through the blue paint past the near post while Smith was still over at the opposite post - they didn't get a goal. Then the Pens' top line of Geno, Petr Sykora, and Ryan Malone had their own amazing shift immediately afterwards. They, too, kept the puck in the Lightning's zone. They, too, fired shot after shot. This time, the crowd got involved when they started chanting "LET'S GO PENS! LET'S GO PENS!!" Then Lecavalier must have thought one of his teammates had gotten control of the puck, so he went streaking towards Flower. BUT Whit kept the puck in the Lightning's zone, so it became a 5-on-4. The Pens made quick work of it: Whit took a shot that Smith blocked, and Geno got to the rebound and went top shelf on Smith to take back the lead. [Pens 2, Lightning 1]

We're told that today is the legendary Bobby Orr's 60th birthday. (Best wishes to him!!) Then FSN gave us a list of the Penguins' top point leaders. (The points were shown as totals from before the start of tonight's game...) Geno tops the list at an impressive 97 points, while the new guy Hossa takes over the 3rd place position with 58 points. You know what that means - despite having missed 24 games, Sidney sits in 2nd place with 67 points!!! I hate to do this, but I know we're all thinking it: if January 18th never happened, Sid would have the Art Ross in the bag. [*Sigh*] The second period ended with the Pens still ahead by a single goal.

Early in the third period, the Lighting turned the puck over to the Pens twice in one shift. The second time they turned it over, it went to Dupuis. Smith made the save on Dupuis but again could not control the rebound. Enter Jordan Staal: He earned his 12th goal of the season! [Pens 3, Lightning 1]

Before anyone knew what was happening, Geno was screaming down the far wall. He made a sweet pass to Syko, who was in the center. He blasted the puck past Smith to give the Pens their second goal in 16 seconds. [Pens 4, Lightning 1] Just after scoring, Syko took a penalty for slashing. During the ensuing Lightning power play, MAF was down low as Kuba scored the Lightning's second power play goal. [Pens 4, Lightning 2] Staal had several chances all night. He kept firing shot after shot after shot, but Smith kept blocking them... well, all but that one. :) Ruutu went to the box again, this time for hooking. The best scoring chance came from the shorthanded Penguins. Hossa and Talbot went 2-on-1. Hossa made an incredible pass to Talbot, but Smith stacked his pads and blocked the shot. The Lightning did not score on their advantage.

It was about this time (about 8:00 left in the game) that the Penguins just opened up and went crazy. It would take too much time and space to tell you about all the amazing plays the Pens had. Just know this - they did everything but score. It was pretty amazing. Here are some of the more notable occurences:

Smith fell as he attempted to play the puck, but he recovered just in time to keep a Penguin from getting the puck while the net was W-I-D-E open. ATTENTION YOUTUBE SEARCHERS! Please find me a clip of the following play → Ruutu lost his stick after being interfered with by Mike Lundin. Incredibly, he kept possession of the puck with his feet. He carried the puck like a soccer ball down the ice approximately 45 feet. He then made an absolutely stunning kicking pass between Junior Lessard's legs right to the stick of Mad Max. Smith made a pretty save on Max's shot, but that was something to see! Lundin went to the box, but the Pens did not score on their advantage.

*** LATE EDIT: Friends Elizabeth D. and Ali responded to my plea for help finding the video. Elizabeth provided this link to a Yahoo! highlight video, as well as this picture:

How about putting Ruutu on the League of Clutch?!

Ali provided the information that led me to the following video (the Ruutu interview starts at 5:18 if you want to skip ahead):

Thank you both SO MUCH for finding that great stuff for us, ladies!!! :) ***

Towards the end of the game, Lecavalier kneed Staal. No call was made by the refs, but poetic justice took care of it when we saw Lecavalier flexing his knee after twisting it during the infraction. (He seemed no worse for wear, as he would return for his next shift.) Ruutu set Dupuis up for a great scoring chance, but Smith made a nice save. (It should be noted that without Smith, the Lightning probably would have lost by a much, MUCH larger margin.) With just over a minute left in the game, Smith was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. As the seconds ticked down, Geno got the puck and went sailing down the ice 2-on-1 with Hossa. Geno passed the puck to Hossa, but Hossa took one extra stride before shooting towards the empty net, so yet another goal was scored AFTER the clock ticked down. Oh well. It didn't matter - the Pens had already won the game! This is the first time the Pens have beaten the Lightning at the Mellon since November 2, 2002 AND the Pens are now tied for the top spot in the Atlantic Division!!!

All 8 remaining games are now divisional games. Hold on to your hats; it's going to get nasty... First up: The Devils. This Saturday. GO PENS!!!!!!!!!


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