Penguins win first home game of season
A split-second decision by an on-ice official added to the Penguins' defense corps losses on Friday night.
However, a split-second decision by a defenseman finally won them a game at Consol Energy Center.
Alex Goligoski's quick-release overtime goal lifted the Penguins past the New York Islanders, 4-3 - saving them from heading to Philadelphia for a game tonight wondering if their power play would ever score again.
The Penguins, who improved to 2-3-0 (4 points), went 1-for-8 on the advantage, and they are 4-for-28 on the season.
About those numbers ...
"We got one when it counted," Goligoski said of his third goal. "We still have some things to work on. We're gripping it a little tight on occasion, and you saw that (against the Islanders)."
Coach Dan Bylsma said on-ice officials told him they were "protecting a player" when defenseman Kris Letang was ejected for a hit in the defensive zone on Islanders left wing Blake Comeau at 7:48 of the second period.
The Penguins led 2-0 at that point on goals by forward Mike Rupp and left wing Eric Tangradi - his first in the NHL - but momentum swung toward the Islanders when Letang was issued a major penalty for an illegal check to the head and a game misconduct.
Letang skated into Comeau. After the hit Comeau, spun airborne before falling face-first onto the ice. Islanders center Josh Bailey charged Letang, and they wrestled after a whistle while the arena video board showed replays of the hit. Those replays showed that Letang's shoulder did not connect with Comeau's head.
Still, Letang was ruled in violation of NHL Rule 48.1, which penalizes players for "a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted." League officials can review the hit for a possible fine to Letang. Additionally, he will be suspended at least one game if penalized for another illegal hit to the head in the future.
Bylsma took heat off the on-ice crew by noting their need to make "a split-second decision," but Letang defended himself.
"I tried to put my stick on the puck first, that's how we play defense - then I put my shoulder on his shoulder," he said. "With a hit like that, right away I was saying (to officials) that I was going for the puck.
"It's a judgment. Everybody's got to look at it. It's a play that I need to step up; otherwise he's going to be by himself in the scoring slot."
Bailey saw the sequence differently.
"I saw it on the replay, and obviously he blindsided him," he said. "(Comeau) didn't see it coming. To some degree, there is an onus on the player, and I'm sure Blake would agree with that. But at the same time, we're not going to stand for that."
Comeau and Bailey teamed to bring the Islanders within a 2-1 score on the ensuing five-minute power play. Comeau assisted on defenseman Radek Martinek's marker at 13:06 - only 1:48 after Bailey's score - to tie the score, 2-2.
Backup goalie Brent Johnson was sharp for the Penguins. He turned aside 22 shots, including 10 in the final period, when the Islanders went without a goal on three power plays.
Bylsma did not say if Johnson or struggling starter Marc-Andre Fleury (0-3-0 with a 3.41 goals-against average) would start against the Flyer at Wells Fargo Center.
Johnson credited this win to the five defensemen who finished for the Penguins. That group included two first-year players, Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland, and a journeyman, Andrew Hutchinson. Also, Goligoski and Martin each played over 27 minutes.
"Those guys played every bit as tough as we needed them to," he said.
The new rule
A look at the NHL's new Rule 48 for illegal checks to the head:
Rule 48.1 • A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted.
Rule 48.3 • For a violation of this rule, a major penalty shall be assessed.
Rule 48.4 • An automatic game misconduct penalty shall be assessed whenever a major penalty is assessed under this rule.
Source: 2010-11 NHL Rule Book