The Islanders and Penguins went head-to-head in a Friday night grudge match that showcased several highlight reel goals, plays and above all, brawls and scrums that seemingly occurred after every play and whistle at both ends of the ice. Numerous fighting majors and misconducts were handed out, which inevitably meant that both teams were going to have to deal with the NHL disciplinary system.
“They stuck up for one another. It’s a close knit group in there,” said interim head coach Jack Capuano after the game. He repeated much of the same mantra that had been stated in the locker room after the game, although only a fraction of the team was available since so many had been thrown out with game misconducts before the third period concluded. The players felt they did what they had to do in order to play as a team. For a full story with quotes, head over to my other article from yesterday at The Checking Line: http://thecheckingline.com/blog/rob-mcgowan/new-york-islanders/pummeling-penguins-isles-win-9-3-fight-filled-match
As a result, Eric Godard of the Pittsburgh Penguins was handed an automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the bench to defend goaltender Brent Johnson after Micheal Haley skated down to go toe-to-toe with him at the Pens end of the ice after finishing his bout with Max Talbot. Trevor Gillies will sit out for the next nine games for his elbow to Eric Tangradi’s head and Matt Martin will sit for four games for attempting to deliver a cheap shot to Talbot at center ice in the second period, which set the tone for the rest of the game.
In addition to the suspensions, the NHL fined the New York Islanders $100,000 for letting things get out of control. After the win, Capuano was asked if the history of the two teams this season played into his coaching strategy before the game.
“As a coaching staff we prepare our guys obviously systematically what we want to try to do to diffuse some of their strengths. And the players play the game. And you know what, obviously they had an understanding of what happened the last time we played and the players played the game and they did what they had to do,” said Capuano.
And although the players took matters into their own hands, Capuano didn’t disapprove of what happened on the ice.
“I have no problems. Like I said, it’s not like as a staff, I’m sure Dan (Bylsma) didn’t send Johnson down on Ricky and I’m not sending guys to do what they have to do. The players play the game and they take action the way they feel is necessary,” said Capuano.
Although that may be the case, the NHL clearly felt that Capuano could have done more to restrain his players from continuing to take action throughout the game. As a result, Charles Wang will have to open up his wallet for a decent amount of cash. Therefore, I wouldn’t expect anything like this to repeat in the near future – it’s a good thing for Wang that these two teams don’t meet again until April 8th.
The best thing for the Islanders to do now is move forward with a win this afternoon in Buffalo. The team clearly is playing for one another as a unit. The mayhem and demolishing of the Penguins will only hold value if they can carry their play into a regular opponent like the Sabres. The Islanders have the momentum; it’s time to keep the ball rolling.