Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Game 52 Recap (2/2/2011)

Game 52 of the season went out with a bang – literally – as Penguins goalie Brent Johnson met New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro in the Islanders zone and dropped the gloves in the dying minute of the game. The scrum would end with DiPietro on his back and Johnson earning his second shutout of the season. (The shutout is actually shared between the two goalies given that Fleury finished the game, but, let’s be honest, there were only sixteen seconds left when Fleury was sent in to guard the pipes. That was more than enough time for the Islanders to net at least one goal, but with the momentum the Pens had built up as a result of the scrum and Max Talbot’s empty-net-slump-breaking goal, it’s highly unlikely the Islanders would have capitalized on any chance they happened to get.) This is the second time in the last week and a half that the Penguins have shutout the Islanders.
The first goal of the evening came with 11:52 left on the clock in the first period as Tyler Kennedy, earning his ninth of the season, ripped a shot from the right of the face-off circle past DiPietro. (Apparently Kennedy and HCDB engaged in a heart-to-heart this morning during practice and it would appear that whatever was said in that conversation was just the fuel Kennedy needed to step up his game tonight. Here’s hoping it lasts. Oh, to have been a fly on the ice during that conversation…) A little over five minutes later, Chris Kunitz would slide a back hander past the Isles goaltender and the Penguins would end the first period up 2-0. The second period would remain goalless and the third and final goal of the game would come with 0:41 left on the clock. Max Talbot would score the 50th goal of his career and earn his 100th game point banking in on an empty net (and was there anyone on that ice who deserved it more? I think not – especially after the pinball action of an earlier shot whereby he was robbed by the goal posts!) Paul Martin would lead the team in assists, earning points on the first two Penguins goals.
It would not be the goal scoring that would be the highlight of the night, however, or even the eminent shutout. With 0:16 left on the clock, following some pushing and shoving around Penguins winger Matt Cooke, Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson left his crease, throwing down the gloves and tossing his helmet aside in an attempt to challenge Rick DiPietro. The Isles goaltender would go toe-to-toe with Johnson but would be knocked on his back with one impressive left hook. Both goalies would be ejected from the game. To quote Max Talbot, “If no one knew he [Johnson] was a lefty – in the league – they know now.” Johnson, according to the man himself, is in fact not a lefty but just pulled off “a lucky shot.” Whatever it was, there is almost a guarantee that the net-minder has earned himself a spot in Penguin folk-lore.

The victory tonight is the fourth in a row for the Pens who have won seven of their last eight. It was also home win number 18, which now gives the Pens the most home wins in the NHL. They were fortunate to learn that the NHL had rescinded the automatic one-game suspension of center Jordan Staal after he was ejected from Tuesday night’s game for delivering a gloved-punch to Rangers forward Brandon Prust. Had the league not rescinded the suspension, the Pens would have been without Staal, Crosby, Malkin, Letestu and Asham (and Comrie – he should get an honourable mention at the very least.) Asham is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury while Lestestu is waiting on the results of an MRI. Malkin is progressing well and could return to the line up on Friday. Crosby is continuing with his light workouts.
In the past 21 meetings with the Islanders at home, the Penguins have gone 17-2-2 and have gone 13-1-2 in the last sixteen alone. The Penguins penalty kill remains number one in the league.
The Penguins gear up to meet the Sabres on Friday night.
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Brent Johnson
2. Chris Kunitz
3. Max Talbot
As a special feature for this recap – given the epic spectacle that was tonight’s game – we would like to present you with the PensNation three stars of the game.
 Andy's Three Stars of the Game:
1. Brent Johnson
2. Max Talbot
3. Paul Martin
 Meg’s Three Stars of the Game:
1. Brent Johnson and his left fist
2. Max Talbot
3. Whomever edited BeeJ and DiPietro’s Wikipedia Pages.
Dan’s Three Stars:
1. Brent Johnson
2. Max Talbot
3. Tyler Kennedy
Honourable mention: Johnson’s fist.
Nick’s Three Stars:
1. Brent Johnson
2. Johnson’s Fist
3. Rick DiPietro’s Nose
Ashley’s Three Stars:
1. Brent Johnson’s wicked left hook.
2. Max Talbot (50th career goal, 100th career point and whole heck of a lot of swagger.)
3. Rick DiPietro’s goal posts (because, face it, without those posts, the goal differential would have been MUCH greater)

At least around here we can all agree that Brent Johnson was the star of the night!