If only that were the case in this one.
After last week’s one-punch fight between goaltenders Brent Johnson and Rick DiPietro, the Islanders organization was downright embarrassed. They weren’t happy with Matt Cooke running into DiPietro and starting the fight. They were shown up on national TV and came into tonight’s game with a predictable agenda.
Zenon Konopka said before the game (via @KatieStrangNYI) that “Karma has a way of working itself out–in life and in hockey–and usually you cross paths. Obviously, Mr. Cooke, we’re not going to cross his path tonight, but there will be a few out there and we’ll see what happens.”
On Friday morning the Islanders called up Michael Haley on an emergency basis from Bridgeport (AHL) and threw him into the lineup to add a little extra toughness.
Haley led Bridgeport with 144 PIM’s this season and it only took half a period for him to find his first dance partner in Craig Adams:
Adams suffered a huge punch at the end of the bout and his status is unknown at this point, but an injury to him would mean the Penguins would be missing their fifth center from the opening day roster.
This was just the beginning.
As the score reached 3-0, tough guys Eric Godard and Trevor Gilles were next to go:
With the Islanders leading 6-0 early in the second period, the game took a predictable turn for the worst when Matt Martin sucker-punched Pittsburgh’s Max Talbot at center ice:
Martin’s borderline-assault was eerily reminiscent of Todd Bertuzzi‘s gutless attack on Colorado’s Steve Moore that resulted in a broken neck for Moore. Luckily, Talbot had time to shield himself but the game quickly unraveled after that.
In the third period, the game reached a disgusting level. Trevor Gilles charged across the ice and elbowed Pittsburgh’s Eric Tangradi and followed that with a few punches to the head before a brawl eventually ensued.
Haley fought Max Talbot as payback for Talbot giving Islanders forward Blake Comeau a concussion last time the two teams met and the 5-foot-11 Talbot was overmatched.
After disposing of his first victim, Haley wandered the ice looking for someone else to fight and caught the attention of goalie Brent Johnson who decided to engage in his second fight in as many games.
Before Johnson and Haley could exchange serious blows, Eric Godard of the Penguins flew off the bench and made an attempt to intercept Johnson before the referees made their way into the mess:
While Tangradi laid on the ice trying to gather himself, Gilles stood in the runway taunting and yelling at the rookie.
As sad as it sounds, everything before Godard leaving the bench could be categorized as ‘just hockey’. Leaving the bench to join an altercation like Godard did is when the fines and suspensions can get serious for both teams, coaches, and the players.
According to Rule 70, no player may leave the bench during an altercation. The fallout is as follows:
70.10 Fines and Suspensions – The first player to leave the players’ or penalty bench during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation from either or both teams shall be suspended automatically without pay for the next ten (10) regular League and/or Play-off games of his team.
Any team that has a player penalized for being the first or second player to leave the players’ or penalty bench during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation, shall be fined ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for the first instance. This fine shall be increased by five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each subsequent occurrence over the next following three-year period.
All players as well as the first and second players who leave the bench during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation shall be subject to an automatic fine in the amount equal to the maximum permitted under the collective bargaining agreement.
The Coach(es) of the team(s) whose player(s) (including goalkeepers) left the players’ bench(es) or penalty bench(es)during an altercation shall be suspended, pending a review by the Commissioner. The Coach(es) also will be fined a maximum of ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
For all suspensions imposed on players under this rule, the Club of the player shall pay to the League a sum equal to the pro-rata of that player or goalkeeper’s salary covered by the suspension. For purposes of computing amounts due for a player’s suspension, the player’s fixed salary shall be divided by the number of days in the regular season and then, said result shall be multiplied by the number of games suspended.
In addition, any Club that is deemed by the Commissioner to pay or reimburse to the player the amount of the fine or loss of salary assessed under this rule shall be fined automatically one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000).
In the end the evening was a black eye for the league, the officials, the two teams involved, and the state of the game of hockey today.
The NHL will come down hard on every party that played a role in the fracas to ensure that something like this doesn’t occur again. The Islanders pre-game comments from Konopka and others on the Islanders will end up coming back to haunt them when Martin and Gillies likely get dealt substantial suspensions.
The advocates of fighting in the NHL still argue that it’s necessary to “allow the player’s to police themselves.” On a night like this, the policing was left to the inmates as chaos ensued.
On a night like this, I’m a little embarrassed to be a hockey fan.
Quotes and Reactions
~ Brent Johnson (Penguins): “It’s all a blur right now, but it’s one of those things in hockey that just kind of happened. I feel responsible for some of the bad stuff that happened to us early on and this is one we just have to put out of our mind right away.
Obviously we knew coming in here it’d be a chippy game and I think things just got carried away and we all got caught up in the moment and obviously the score was a reflecting of one team was putting them in the net, and then stuff gets out of control.”
~ Kris Letang (Penguins): “Things got heated last game with the goalie fight. They tried to go after our goalie, again. That’s not surprising by [looking at] their 4th and 3rd line guys. But we stick together. It’s not an easy thing to do but I think we’ll respond well.”
~ Jordan Staal (Penguins): “Obviously a lot of fights tonight and we did a great job when stuff did happen like that we were all backing each other up. It was definitely a different game and one of my first and it was very interesting.”
~ Michael Haley (Islanders): “It’s good to win. That in the long run is going to hurt them more and we gotta get points and the team played well. It was emotional and everything was going on there and emotions took over and it happened. My job is to get the call and be ready and play as hard as I can.”
~ Zenon Konopka (Islanders): “We’re a big family in the dressing room and I think people outside of Long Island don’t understand how great a team we have and how great of people we have in here. We’re excited to move forward and use this as momentum for our next game.
Anytime one of our best players and a family member gets a serious injury and you turn on the TV and you see someone laughing at it, obviously it doesn’t sit well with us. It was a lot of things built up into tonight but definitely we’re not happy.
I think [fighting] needs to be part of the game. You look over the course of the year, John Tavares has taken a lot of hits, Matt Moulson’s taken hits, Andrew McDonald’s taken hits, so I think this is the straw that broke the camels back and we needed to push back and make sure everyone realizes that we want our best players on the ice and we want them in the future.”
~ Islanders Coach Jack Capuano: “Players react in different ways. I don’t recall…Johnson might’ve come out to the top of the circles or the blueline, if I remember that correctly, and Michael [Haley] took action.
I sound like a broken record but as players they play the game and it’s an emotional game and things happen. They stuck up for one another. It’s a close knit group in there and it’s an important win for those guys against a really good hockey team.
I’m sure Dan [Bylsma] didn’t send [Brent] Johnson down on Ricky [DiPietro] 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.”
~ Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma: “The first half the game was a hockey game…and the second [half] was not.
I certainly didn’t anticipate the third period looking like that. At that point, we wanted to go out and play hard and not put our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves or anything. I wasn’t expecting quite what we got.”
Bylsma was asked if he expected the effects of last night to carryover to the April 8 rematch on Long Island and he said “um, it’s tough to forget a game like that.”
~ After the game, a metal fence was installed between the locker rooms to separate the two teams from continuing the melee off the ice.
Fines/Suspensions will be as follows:
~ Godard will be suspended without pay for 10 games and fined $2,500. The Penguins will be fined $50,320 ($10,000 + $40,320). If the Penguins have another player leave the bench in a similar altercation at any point in the next three years the $10k fine becomes $15k.
~ It’s very likely that Matt Martin and Trevor Gilles will receive suspensions for their actions as well.
~ Bylsma will be fined a maximum of $10,000 and suspended pending a Commissioner review. He will likely receive at least a one game suspension.
Additional Injury Updates:
~ Bylsma said that Tangradi passed initial tests, but his symptoms seem to indicate he has suffered a concussion. He was woozy and having trouble keeping his balance after the hit and is not expected to play Sunday vs New York Rangers. He also suffered a concussion in March 2010 with Wilkes-Barre of the AHL.
~ Kris Letang was slashed by John Tavares late in the second period but returned to play in the third. He seems to be fine.
~ Paul Martin was hit with a shot late in the game and limped off the ice. His status is unknown at this time.