Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pens v Sabres (W 7-3)

WOOOOO! I thought murder was illegal, but the Pens certainly killed the Sabres tonight! :) The Pens celebrated their 35th sellout of the season (making it the 48th consecutive sellout). Pittsburgh native Ryan Malone took the mic and addressed the fans at the Mellon thanking them for their support. He ended with, "Let's win this thing!" Indeed! By winning this game, the Pens swept this season's series against the Sabres. It marks the first time the Pens have ever done it since the two teams first met in 1970.

The Pens thank the Greatest Fans in Hockey - ALL OF US!!!

The first few minutes were full of even, fast paced action at both ends of the ice. The pace of the game changed when, after the Pens initially lost the faceoff, Pascal Dupuis benefitted from a turnover by Nolan Pratt. Dupuis stretched and passed the puck ahead to Tyler Kennedy, who was behind Pratt and unchallenged. Kennedy streaked towards Ryan Miller on a breakaway. At the very last possible second, Kennedy managed to slide the puck between Miller's skate and the post to make the first mark on the scoreboard. [Pens 1, Sabres 0]

Miller goes down after Kennedy scores...

...while Kennedy celebrates.

Just after that, Ryan Malone nearly doubled the lead, but Miller made the save. The first penalty of the night went to Connor James, who was back up from WBS to replace one of the many injured players on the bench. He was called for tripping. During the Sabres' power play, Malone made a sweet shorthanded pass to Jordan Staal, but Staal wasn't quite ready for it so Miller easily made the save. The Sabres didn't score on their advantage. Later, Dupuis stole the puck in the Sabres' zone, he fired a shot, Miller blocked it, and the Sabres defensemen cleared the puck just before Kennedy could get to it. The Pens got their first power play chance when Drew Stafford was called for roughing, though they did not capitalize on their power play.

Conks held down the fort nicely.

FSN Pittsburgh showed a shot of General Manager Ray Shero watching from the luxury suites with a prominent, stitched-up cut on his chin. We're told that he was the recipient of a high stick from Penguins legend and current Pens radio announcer Phil Bourque. Then FSN showed a picture of Mike Weber in his #87 Penguins jersey when he was a member of the Junior B Penguins. He wore the #87 back then because he too was born in 1987. Petr Sykora was called for holding, but the Sabres didn't capitalize on their advantage. Just before the end of the period, George Laraque's stick was held up, but no call was made. The period ended with the Pens leading by a goal.

During the intermission, the chef from the Igloo Club (the restaurant below the luxury suites) skated across the ice to bring Bob Errey, who was broadcasting from between the benches, a prime rib sandwich and fries. Okay - I've told you that my husband and I occasionally get to watch Pens games from his company's luxury suite. During the 2001-02 season, we "accidentally" left the suite with a few extra items, one of them being a laminated menu. I dug it out and checked it out: back then, a regular cold cut hoagie (no fries) cost a whopping $20 per foot!!! I can only imagine how much Errey's prime rib dinner would cost you or me!

Hometown Boy Malone thanked the fans with a spectacular game.

Early in the second period, a scary incident occured. Nathan Paetsch was clipped by Laraque's elbow. Paetsch spun around and fell to the ice. He lay there motionless and did not respond to a teammate who gently tapped him on the back. The stretcher was brought out, but Paetsch finally left the ice under his own power after what seemed like forever. I'm not being biased here, I swear, but to me it did not look like Laraque intended to connect with Paetsch, let alone knock him out. It looked to me like it was an unfortunate meeting between the giant that is Laraque and Paetsch's chin. Nonetheless, Laraque was given a 5 minute major for elbowing and a 10 minute misconduct. The Pens, however, decided to turn their lemon into lemonade. They had more scoring chances for the first four minutes of the Sabres' power play than the Sabres could have hoped to have. Dupuis and Jarrko Ruutu worked together and almost scored. The Sabres' best chance was foiled when Maxim Afinogenov was robbed by a stunning save by Ty Conklin.

And then Evgeni Malkin came out on the penalty kill. It was an unreal display. He set up Dupuis, Hal Gill, and Kris Letang, all of whom just barely missed the goal. He went nuts. He was playing like 2 men, so it was like they weren't even down a man. At one point, he was tripped, but nothing was called. FINALLY, for all the Pens' efforts, Afinogenov was called for hooking. There would be just over a minute of 4-on-4 hockey. Less than 10 seconds into the 4-on-4, Daryl Sydor blasted a shot from the point that Jeff Taffe redirected into the net. [Pens 2, Sabres 0] The major penalty to Laraque ended, and the Pens had about a minute left on their power play.

This guy is UNREAL.

There was a new A&L Motors commercial. It focussed on Colby Armstrong. "Now that he's no longer in Pittsburgh, we want to thank him for his acting skills and wish him well in Atlanta." I thought that was really nice of them. [*Sigh*] I miss Army...

Staal had a great scoring chance, but he was robbed by Miller. The Pens did not score on the rest of Afinogenov's penalty. They'd get another chance with an advantage, though, when Thomas Vanek was called for tripping after Conks came out to play the puck, and Vanek hauled the goalie down. Sergei Gonchar scored with a wrister for the power play goal. [Pens 3, Sabres 0] Incidentally, Ryan Whitney earned his 100th assist on Gonch's goal. Immediately on the next play, Letang almost scored, but he hit the post. The second period ended with the Pens dominating the Sabres 3-0.

Vanek takes Conklin down...

...and then Gonchar celebrates his resulting power play goal.

The third period got underway with a bang. Pratt bothered Staal all night. He took it a step too far when he hit Staal from behind as Staal had his head down. Staal's head went into the boards, he fell to the ice, and Pratt fell on top of him. Kennedy didn't exactly take too kindly to it and went after Pratt. Fortunately, Staal shook off the hit. Pratt was sent to the box for boarding, and the Pens made him pay for his actions when Malone stole the puck right off Toni Lydman's stick and sent it through traffic to Sykora, who was in front of the open net. [Pens 4, Sabres 0]

The Sabres ruined Conklin's hopes for a shutout when, after Conks blocked a shot with his chest, the puck bounced off Conklin's stick and right to Jochen Hecht, who promptly banged it home. [Pens 4, Sabres 1] A small scrum developed between the teams following the Sabres goal. Taffe was later hit from behind, but no call was made. Staal and Kennedy went 2-on-1, but Miller made the save. After the play was whistled down, the teams went at each other again. The two youngsters may not have scored, but they drew a penalty on Hecht for roughing. The Sabres dominated this Pens power play. Daniel Paille flew down the wing shorthanded and scored on Conklin's six-hole. [Pens 4, Sabres 2] The Pens did not score on their advantage.

Minard celebrates his first career goal.

Just after Paul Steigerwald said that Sid (and I quote) "has become a good looking cover boy," Geno had a near miss chance and fell in front of Miller. He was surrounded by Sabres, so he picked the puck up and threw it up and over the net. Of course play was stopped. Later, Henrik Tallinder turned the puck over to Staal, but Staal's shot hit the post. On the next play, Staal was heading towards Miller 1-on-none but he couldn't get a shot off because Tallinder hooked him. We wondered if it would be a penalty shot; it was not. But Geno made us forget all about that: after a nice pass to Sydor at the blue line, Geno raced back to the front of the net. Sydor fired the puck right back onto Geno's stick, giving Geno the power play goal. [Pens 5, Sabres 2]

Geno even dominates the goal celebration style.

Just seconds later, Staal passed the puck to Chris Minard (also up from WBS). Minard was looking at a wide open net, so he easily scored his 1st NHL goal. [Pens 6, Sabres 2] After that, Miller was pulled in favor of ex-Pen Jocelyn Thibault and all hell broke loose. The Sabres' desperation level doubled, but the Pens responded in kind. Geno turned the puck over at the blue line, which lead to the second goal by Paille. [Pens 6, Sabres 3]

Paille scores one of two goals.

The Pens almost got it right back when Ruutu had James coming to the front of the net, but James just couldn't get his stick on the puck. The Sabres then had one of those strange moments when they weren't sure if they had scored or not and had to wait several minutes for a whistle before the refs could make that suspenseful call to the War Room in Toronto. After an eternity of waiting and several dozen replays that were all inconclusive, the goal was waived off. There really was no way to tell if the puck had crossed the goal line or not, so NO GOAL!

Right after the game resumed, Staal, Kennedy, and Letang went 3-on-2. Kennedy passed the puck to Letang. GOAL. [Pens 7, Sabres 3] On the very next play, Paul Gaustad scored; rather, he thought he did. On the replay, it was clear that the refs had blown their whistles before he got the puck and put it behind Conks. Gaustad was incredulous. If I was a Sabres fan, at that point, something in my house would have gotten smashed. Fortunately, I'm a Pens fan, so all my stuff is still in one piece. Vanek hit a post, and Pratt took Staal down after Staal tried to poke the puck in between T-Bo's pads, but no more goals were scored by either team. The Pens didn't just win - they DOMINATED!!!

Check out that headline, haha! (Click to enlarge)

And so begins a three day break for the Pens. They return to action on Sunday against their cross state rivals. GO PENS!!!

Come back here tomorrow afternoon for a story about Sid - by Sid... :)


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