Pummeling The Penguins: Isles Win 9-3 In Fight Filled Match-Up

Where to begin with this game? To acknowledge the numerous amount of fights, brawls and scrums that went down last night between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders? Or to draw attention to the fact that the Islanders beat the Penguins 9-3 on their home ice?

I'll start with the goals and the actual hockey game itself, which took much longer than the typical two and a half hours that a hockey game encapsulates. The Islanders got goals from seven different players; Travis Hamonic, Jesse Joensuu, P.A. Parenteau, Michael Grabner, John Tavares, Micheal Haley and Matt Moulson. Moulson and Grabner each had two a-piece while Tavares had a four-point night by adding three assists.

Hamonic had a three-point night as well as he added two helpers before he got tossed from the game for his fight with Mike Rupp in the first brawl of the game at center ice. Moulson also had an assist to give him a three-point night as well.

And although there will be plenty of attention centered around Micheal Haley's actions for a while after last night's game, his first NHL goal should also get the attention it deserves. Haley dressed for his third NHL game last night; his first of the season. He was called up in anticipation of how violent this game could become had it gotten out of control since he plays the fourth-line enforcer role with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. But apparently, the kid has some decent hands that can be used aside from fights. He skated from the Islanders defensive zone and carried the puck up the right side boards and burned one defender by flicking the puck to himself and driving with speed hard to net. With patience, Haley maneuvered his way around the crease and beat the Penguins goaltender down low.

Once the Islanders got a comfortable 6-0 lead over the Penguins in the second period, Matt Martin immediately went after Max Talbot in response to the recent hit he delivered on Blake Comeau that has kept him out of the line-up with a concussion. Josh Bailey pulled out Pascal Dupuis from the scrum and Hamonic would tango with Mike Rupp. Both fights lasted a considerable amount of time as the officials were too busy pulling everyone off of Martin and Talbot.

This brawl, in addition to the first period rounds in Haley's fight with Craig Adams and Trevor Gillies' battle with Eric Godard (in your typical one-on-one matches), would set the tone for the rest of the game. The Islanders were out for revenge after losing Comeau and Rick DiPietro in their last two meetings. With a line-up that featured Konopka, Martin, Gillies and Haley, there was no question that this game would have its ugly moments.

“We scored a lot of goals tonight. We all stood up for each other. We stood by each other. And that’s what a team does. So I thought the guys played really well tonight,” said Hamonic after the game.

I asked him what was going through his mind once he realized he was going to square off with Mike Rupp. Oddly enough, with the stat sheet in my hands when both players dropped their gloves, he and I were thinking the same thing.

“You know I was actually kind of laughing I thought I was going to have a Gordie Howe hat trick (laughs). He’s obviously a big strong guy so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sit there and go toe-to-toe with him so I figured you know I got to get a good grab on him. I thought I did pretty good. I let him try to throw a couple, he really couldn’t do much or generate much. I caught him with that last one that kind of took him down at the end. For me it was a smart fight on my behalf because I knew he was a big strong guy and he was obviously pretty frustrated at that point so he really went out to try to swing it.”

But this was only the beginning. Gillies would later hit Tangradi into the boards at the Islanders end of the ice and try to get the Pens player into a fight. Tangradi was visibly hurt from the hit and was not a willing combatant, causing the other Pens skaters to come to his aide. One of those skaters was Talbot, who was quickly taken from the scrum by Haley and pummeled to the ice once again. The linesman shoved Haley in the direction of the penalty box after the altercation, but Haley had other plans. He saw Penguins goalie Brent Johnson waiting at the blue line and decided it was time for him to be brought into the ruckus. The two would drop the gloves, causing Eric Godard to leap off the Penguins bench to come to his goalie’s defense. It wasn’t long before the brawl left the Islanders end of the ice and made its way down to the opposite end of the rink. Gillies, who stood in the runway and restrained himself from returning to battle, kept taunting Tangradi as he was being helped back up to his feet. The game was officially out of control.

“It was eventful. It was a good win. We beat a good team there and everything else aside, we scored some goals and won the hockey game,” said Haley after the game. “It’s good to win. I think that in the long run is going to hurt them more than anything else.”

Haley didn’t have too much to say about his second and third fights. When asked what happened between him and Johnson, all he had to say was that it was “nothing. It was emotional. Everything was going on there and emotions took over.”

Haley also took over the emotions of the crowd as his name was heard chanted throughout the rest of the game despite him being in the locker room for the remainder of the second and third periods. In that battle, Haley received an instigating minor, two fighting majors and two game misconducts to add to his roughing minor and first period fight with Adams. That’s 39 penalty minutes, almost a full two periods of hockey.

There were plenty of other battles, including Zenon Konopka’s take down on Talbot in a scrum that developed in front of the penalty boxes. With both benches dwindling, Frans Nielsen would get cross-checked from behind in the Islanders end of the ice. Once the play was dead, both teams came to each other’s defense with Konopka taking Talbot out of the mayhem.

“There’s been a lot of liberties taken over the course of the season,” said Konopka. “It can be built up only so much before I guess it comes out. So it’s some of that, it was everyone sticking up for each other. It was a good hockey team we beat but it was tough losing Comeau. He’s like a brother to us. That hurt.”

Although there will be many analysts and announcers criticizing the Islanders for their actions on the ice, it does deliver a positive message to the fan base as well as management: this team is playing for each other. Konopka is right; although he was not with the Islanders at the time, this team would get run by the bigger and stronger teams of their division several times over the previous two seasons. With Gillies and Konopka in the line-up, the young guys on this team have been protected, and the intensity has been contagious.

“So we really are going to have to step in and make sure our guys are taken care of. This goal goes for the rest of the year and next year,” said Konopka.

Josh Bailey is not a noted fighter. Neither is Andrew MacDonald, who went at it with Joe Vitale at the end of the third period. Garth Snow has put together a core that plays as a team. They may be missing several pieces that are needed in order to make them a contender, but the young guys on this team will continue to develop together as the organization moves forward. They won’t be strangers to one another, and that’s key for rebuilding a club into a winning hockey team.

One player that the Islanders will likely want to make part of this core for many years is Michael Grabner. He was released by the Canucks and was unable to make the Panthers cut in training camp this season. As of now, Grabner has 12 goals in his last 13 games played and is tied for the team lead at 21 goals with Matt Moulson. Not only did he score an even strength goal as well as a shorthanded goal, but his uncanny speed awarded him a penalty shot in the first period that was stopped by Johnson. Grabner is certainly making a case to be considered for the Calder Trophy this summer.

Mikko Koskinen also got his second start in as many nights, stopping 35 of 38 shots. His best save of the game came early in the second period. The Penguins got a shot on net that was kicked to a vulnerable area in front of the crease. Koskinen was down but managed to sprawl across and smack the puck out of mid-air with the inside of his glove in what appeared to be an easy rebound goal. Although he has only won two out of the three games he’s played, Koskinen has displayed that he and Poulin will be fighting for jobs in an Islanders uniform in the near future.

Clearly this was a night that both teams and their respected fans will remember for a very long time. It's not very often that there are only two to four players on either bench waiting for line changes by the end of the game. But the next step is for the Islanders to overcome any hangover they may have from this spirited rivalry as they will visit the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow afternoon.

And for your viewing pleasure, here is a YouTube video (courtesy of AGreatDayForHockey87) that contains all the fights and scrums from last night’s game. Enjoy.

-Rob McGowan

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Glen Miller's picture

While I'm glad to see the Pens lose, and lose badly, it worries me knowing they're readying for a match up with the Rangers. I have a feeling they will not be a bunch of happy campers tomorrow.

Glen Miller's picture

And what is up with Brent Johnson? Maybe he realizes he'll never lead the league in any goaltending stats so is taking a run at being the PIM leader. Shooting for the record books, maybe?

Rob McGowan's picture

Haha could be Glen. He certainly wasn't posting strong goaltending stats last night.

empireamodeo's picture

Grabner was actually traded from the Canucks not released. He was in the Ballard deal and the Islanders placed him on waivers, not cut him in camp.

George Prax's picture

He was a throw in in the Ballard deal and then the PANTHERS placewd him on waivers, not the Isles Tongue

empireamodeo's picture

ha ha yes the Panthers put him waivers sorry.....I was typing too fast as I was very suprised by the initial writer and his misinformation.....IRONY!