Penguins lose ugly in penalty-marred game
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Penguins' worst loss since 2003 wasn't a hockey game.
"I don't know if I can say (what it was) in an interview," defenseman Kris Letang said of a 9-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Friday night at Nassau Coliseum — which featured 65 penalties for 346 minutes.
The Islanders targeted Penguins goalie Brent Johnson and forward Max Talbot, each player responsible for unforgettable moments in the last meeting between these clubs, Feb. 2 at Consol Energy Center.
That contest, won, 3-0 by the Penguins, featured Johnson tossing aside a shutout because he was tossed in the final minute for entering the Islanders' zone to fight fellow goalie Rick DiPietro, who is out at least four weeks with a facial fracture suffered in the scrap. Talbot delivered a controversial blow to Islanders right wing Blake Comeau, who suffered a concussion and has not played since.
Those acts prompted Penguins coach Dan Bylsma to predict this game would take on a nasty nature.
"I certainly didn't anticipate the third period looking like that," he said. There were 40 penalties for 213 minutes in the final 20 minutes.
The final four minutes provided 17 penalties for 91 minutes — though only two of 14 fighting majors.
"As a staff, we prepare our guys, but the players play the game," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said, adding that he "absolutely (did) not" tell his players to let up late with the score out of reach. "I have no problems with them. They took action the way they saw fit."
Boston and Montreal combined for 182 penalty minutes Wednesday. That was the most in the NHL since 193 by Vancouver and Edmonton on Feb. 16, 2008.
The Penguins' previous high for combined penalties and minutes was 59 and 292 at the New York Rangers on Dec. 30, 1988. Penguins left wing Eric Tangradi was two months from being born.
Recalled from the AHL yesterday because of an injury to center Dustin Jeffrey, Tangradi was experiencing concussion-like symptoms after absorbing an elbow from Islanders left wing Trevor Gillies early in the third period.
Johnson, pulled in the second period after allowing six goals, returned for a fight-filled final 20 minutes.
"I don't know what they were so frustrated about," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Johnny got into a fight with their goalie (earlier this month) who was very willing — and you've got guys like Trevor Gillies who are out to hurt people. The league takes care of all that stuff, and I'm sure they will."
An afterthought in this game was the goal scorers.
Center Jordan Staal, right wing Tyler Kennedy and Letang, who finished the game with a "painful" ankle injury — the result of a slash by Islanders center John Tavares at the expiration of the first period — scored for the Penguins. The Islanders' scorers were Micheal Haley, Tavares, P.A. Parenteau, Jesse Joensuu, Michael Grabner (twice), Matt Moulson (twice) and Travis Harmonic.
Haley drew applause from the 12,888 in attendance for a third-period sequence that featured him fighting Talbot in the Islanders' zone, then skating toward Johnson, who left the crease to defend himself.
"I was (surprised to see Haley) coming at me," Johnson said. "I was outside the scrum because our guy got hit, and he just came down. I don't know. It's all a blur right now."
Islanders center Zenon Konopka called Haley, who played his third NHL game after cultivating an AHL reputation as an enforcer, "a great guy. We love him."
The Penguins, second in goals-against average, allowed their most goals since Nov. 8, 2003 — a 9-0 defeat at Tampa Bay. Letang was two years from being drafted by the Penguins then.
"It's not a hockey game," Letang said. "It was just stupid."Additional Information:
The Penguins finished a loss at the New York Islanders on Friday night with 12 skaters because five players were issued game misconducts. A look at the regulars not available to coach Dan Bylsma for the final 15 minutes:
Sidney Crosby (concussion): 32 goals
Chris Kunitz (lower body injury): 18
Evgeni Malkin (right knee injury): 15
Matt Cooke (suspension): 10
Pascal Dupuis (game misconduct): 10
Mark Letestu (left knee injury): 10
Mike Rupp (game misconduct): 5
Arron Asham (upper body injury): 5
Dustin Jeffrey (lower body injury): 4
Craig Adams (game misconduct): 3
Deryk Engelland (game misconduct): 2
Eric Godard (game misconduct): 0