PITTSBURGH – For the second time in as many nights, a Pittsburgh Penguins player landed a huge punch that resulted in a game misconduct. Last night it was Jordan Staal‘s blindside shot that led to a match penalty but no one expected backup goaltender Brent Johnson to be the one dishing out punishment on Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
After New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro clipped Matt Cooke of the Penguins with under twenty seconds to go in the game, Johnson decided to take matters into his own hands:
After the game Johnson admitted he’s actually no stranger to fisticuffs. “This is the first time [I've fought] in the NHL,” Johnson said. “I had a couple fights in the minors and a lot in Juniors, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had and being up 3-0 and seeing [Dipietro] come out and hit one of our guys, so not a better opportunity than that and I jumped at it.”
What remained of over 18,000 fans at the CONSOL Energy Center roared after every replay of the punch on the video screen and Marc-Andre Fleury couldn’t contain his laughter. Johnson admitted the entire team was pretty wound up about the battle.
“Afterward guys were excited,” he said. “They didn’t know I had that little mean streak in me. It was something I’ve kind of wanted to do for a little while. Maybe a little frustration at some things and it just all came out tonight.”
Center Max Talbot was at a loss for words when it came to talking about Johnson’s fight. “Wow, that’s uhh, that was amazing,” Talbot said. “It’s something you don’t see happen often but he went out there, deked the ref and threw a bomb [laughs]. It’s something for our team that gives us a lot of energy and it’s something that’s fun to see.”
Coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t thrilled with his goaltender throwing punches at the end of a game but said DiPietro probably brought it upon himself. “I don’t have much of a reaction [to the fight],” Bylsma said. “It was 16 seconds left, I’m not sure we needed to go there. I think it starts with Rick DiPietro coming out of the goal and trying to set a high pick on Matt Cooke which started that.”
Fleury had to take over for Johnson after his ejection meaning the backup was missed his 15th career shutout by just seconds. When asked if it was worth losing the shutout over a goalie fight, Johnson said “definitely, with 16 seconds left it’s not a big thing about shutouts. For me it’s just about keeping the guys in the game like I had to.”
So, a knockout over a shutout? “I’ll take it.”