The Penguins' ugly 4-1 loss at Atlanta was over-shadowed by an uglier injury suffered by Ilya Kovalchuk.
-Before the game, Sergei Gonchar looks as if he's chugging a gigantic bottle of mouthwash.
-In a bit of a surprise, Ty Conklin gets the start behind net. We would've started Dany Sabourin considering Conklin played the night before in New Jersey. But we watched the game from our couch. Michel Therrien watched it from behind the Penguins' bench. Who are you going to put your faith in?
-Kari Lehtonen is Atlanta's starter in net.
-The official scratches for the Penguins were Colby Armstrong and Kris Beech.
-Atlanta scratched Brad Larsen and Marc Popovic.
16:19: Ty Conklin gets tested early. Ken Klee makes a nice pass that breaks loose Pascal Dupuis on a breakaway. Dupuis shoots into Conklin's midsection but Conklin is up to the task and eats it up.
14:06: Jarkko Ruutu centers a pass into the slot to where Sergei Gonchar snaps a shot on net. Kari Lehtonen makes the save. A scramble ensues for the puck which is knocked away. The net gets knocked off its moorings but the puck goes down to the other end of the ice so the officials don't halt play.
12:52: Chris Thorburn makes a pass from behind the net to Bobby Holik in the slot. Holik sort of fans on the first attempt but gets it back, gets around Ryan Whitney and is able to bank a backhander off Conklin's leg and into the net. Song Two by Blur is played. Thrashers 1-0.
11:17: The Penguins lines are shown by FSN Pittsburgh. Thorburn is mistakenly put on the fourth line. Someone must not have taken his trade from the Penguins during the offseason very well.
9:38: Paul Steigerwald makes fun of Luke Ravenstahl's bald spot.
8:45: Eric Perrin works the puck into his own corner and gets bulled over by Ruutu.
8:38: Jonathan Filewich and Nathan Smith try to team up on a one-timer. They can't beat Hedburg who covers the puck. Steve McCarthy gets in Ruutu's grill and tries to "defend" Perrin.
6:44: Jeff Taffe clips Garnet Exelby in the face with his stick and draws blood. The Thrashers will get a four-minute power play.
4:24: Rob Scuderi clears the puck from his own end and the Thrashers fans, all 49 of them, boo.
4:07: Marian Hossa fires a wrister on net. Conklin gloves it. Mark Recchi jumps in near the crease and then acts as if he were shot by a sniper.
3:38: Ilya Kovalchuk grabs the puck at the point, winds up and blasts a slapper. Maxime Talbot slides to the ice and shows a lot of guts by blocking Kovalchuk's big blast.
3:18: Steve McCarthy feeds a puck from the right point to Kovalchuk at the left. Kovalchuk blasts a bomb that beats Conklin. Kovalchuk sort of does a celebration in front of the Penguins bench. Hmm... Kernkraft 400 by Zombie Nation is played. Thrashers 2-0.
2:47: Dupuis trips Kris Letang and the Penguins will get a chance to cut the lead in half.
0:00: End of period. Ruutu complains to the officials that someone gave him a wet willy. We think. Thrashers 2, Penguins 0.
-The Penguins own a 9-7 advantage in shots.
-A piece on Jordan Staal is shown. The infamous Staal Soil and Sod logo is shown. We sort of pursued a hat he was wearing last season with that logo and kind of gave up on it. We probably should get back on that horse.
-Kovalchuk's taunt of Sidney Crosby from two seasons ago is replayed:
(Pay no attention to Glenn Healy, the TSN color commentator. If that's Darcy Tucker delivering the hit, he's calling Tucker a gritty, character guy.)
16:39: Ruutu takes a run at Kovalchuk and hits him knee-on-knee. Kovalchuk falls to the ice and McCarthy attacks Ruutu along the Thrashers bench. McCarthy has Ruutu pinned along the bench and pummels him with several punches. A trainer attends to Kovalchuk who limps to the locker room. McCarthy and Ruutu are separated. Ruutu gets five for fighting (even though he didn't throw a punch), five for kneeing and a game misconduct. McCarthy gets five for fighting, two for instigating and a 10 minute misconduct. It's not a good call by the officials in our book. Ruutu didn't stick his leg out to injure Kovalchuk. It was just an unfortunate collision. There certainly are instances throughout Ruutu's career where you can call him a dirty player. This isn't one of them. If you want to see what an intentional knee-on-knee looks like, watch this:
Ultimately, we feel if that was Jonathan Filewich or Ryan Malone delivering that hit, or if it's Todd White or Eric Perrin taking the hit, no one gets kicked out. Ruutu's reputation earned him that penalty. He simply followed through on a check and unfortunately injured Kovalchuk. We hate to see any player, especially someone as talented and electrifying as Kovalchuk get injured, but hockey's a rough sport. Injuries occasionally occur.
9:41: As Alain Nasreddine is sent to the box for high-sticking, Bob Errey's own personal version of the English language comes out again. He refers to Jeff Taffe's penalty as a "four-minuter."
6:03: Dupuis gets another chance in alone on Conklin. He tries to punch a quick wrister in from the crease, but Conklin is able to kick it out.
5:30: Malkin feeds a pass from behind the net to Sykora. His shot is deflected away by a nice blocker save by Lehtonen.
4:52: Gonchar gets his stick under Hossa's arm and has it literally ripped out of his hands. Gonchar gets two minutes for (what else?) hooking. In all fairness to Gonchar, he hasn't had a hooking penalty for quite a while.
4:02: Kovalchuk returns to the ice but its obvious he's not the same player. He looks like he's skating at half speed.
3:55: Malkin picks up a loose puck, works it through the neutral zone, gets past Kovalchuk and attacks the net. He shoots low but Lehtonen is there with the save.
3:00: Kovalchuk leaves the ice and returns to the locker room.
2:10: Orpik goes down the left side and centers the puck. It gets deflected to traffic where Nathan Smith deflects it with his skate. Officials take a lengthy look at it with replay and rule that Smith kicked it in. No goal.
1:44: Errey all of a sudden decrees pucks kicked into the net should be counted as goals.
0:00: End of period. Thrashers 2, Penguins 0.SECOND INTERMISSION
-The Penguins still own a 19-17 advantage in shots.
-What was up with the goal horn at Phillips Arena going off during the intermission?
-Dan Potash interviews Recchi. Wow. His bald spot is almost as bad as Ravenstahl's.
-No Mike Yeo before the third period. Not cool.
-Is someone wearing a Westminster College sweater behind Nathan Smith on the bench?
19:50: Right off the faceoff. Erik Christensen attacks the net. He gets around Klee and tries to deke by Lehtonen. The Atlanta goaltender comes up with a nice save but Klee goes off for hooking.
18:28: Shorthanded, the puck comes out to the neutral zone. Perrin and Gonchar race for it. Gonchar dives to knock it away, but Perrin picks it up and bears down on Conklin and beat him glove side. Thrashers 3-0.
16:43: Slava Kozlov fires a slapper from the point. Smith gets down to block it.
16:23: Talbot knocks Klee off the puck and takes it off him. He feeds it to Georges Laraque in the slot. Laraque fires it high, but can't beat Lehtonen.
16:14: This thing is starting to get ugly. The puck gets deflected behind the net. Jim Slater grabs it and sneaks it around the other side past an out of position Conklin. Conklin gets yanked in place of Sabourin. Thrashers 4-0.
11:18: The Penguins finally break through. The Thrashers try to clear the puck but Talbot is able to keep it in. Christensen grabs it and slides a pass across the slot to Ryan Whitney who chips it over Lehtonen. Thrashers 4-1.
5:32: Orpik gets called for slashing on Eric Boulton.
4:12: Whitney banks the puck off the boards and springs Talbot on a pseudo breakaway. With Alexei Zhitnik bearing down on him, Talbot fires low but Lehtonen kicks it out.
0:25: Paul Steigerwald profoundly announces Kris Beech has finally returned to the United States as if he just conquered the Spanish Armada or something.
0:00: End of game. Thrashers 4-1.
-It's hard to give the Penguins any grief over this loss. It was their second game in as many nights on the road. They were playing with a short bench. Brook Orpik was playing on the wing. Atlanta was a little bit fresher than them. Shoney's could've catered the pregame spread too. A lot of things were working against the Penguins last night.
-We bet Nathan Smith's mom cried after that goal was disallowed. We just have a feeling.
-We hate to tell you so, but Sabourin probably should've been scheduled to start either last night or Tuesday against the Devils. That was asking a lot of Conklin or any goaltender to start him two nights in a row on the road.
-Many who would tell you Ruutu should've let up on Kovalchuk because of the delayed offsides will also be the first to tell you to play to the whistle. And that's what Ruutu did. The whistle blew after the hit.
-In case you were wondering what the NHL's rules on kneeing say, this is what the rule book says word for word:
"Rule 50 - Kneeing
50.1 Kneeing - Kneeing is the act of a player or goalkeeper leading with his knee and in some cases extending his leg outwards to make contact with his opponent.
50.2 Minor Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a minor penalty, based on the severity of the infraction, to a player or goalkeeper guilty of kneeing an opponent.
50.3 Major Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the severity of the infraction, to a player or goalkeeper guilty of kneeing an opponent (see 50.5).
50.4 Match Penalty -- The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player or goalkeeper attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by kneeing.
50.5 Game Misconduct Penalty - When a player or goalkeeper has been assessed a major penalty for kneeing he shall also be assessed a Game Misconduct.
50.6 Fines and Suspensions - There are no specified fines or suspensions for kneeing, however, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 29)."
-As a hockey fan, you have to appreciate McCarthy's attempt to protect Kovalchuk.
-Kovalchuk returned for a brief shift in the third, but quickly retreated to the locker room.
-Lehtonen was on his game tonight with 29 saves.
-For the second straight night, the Penguins drew flies as a road team. The announced attendance was 14,070 and Phillips Arena holds 18,750 for hockey. For everything the city apparently did to "establish" itself as a hockey town during the All-Star break, it lost a lot of that credibility last night.
-Ryan Malone led all forwards with 22:32 of ice time.
EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS
-Brooks Orpik is going to vote for Barack Obama.
-Does the signing of Kris Beech mean the Penguins don't have a lot of talent in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton?
-They really hate Rich Rodriguez down there in West Virginia.
-Sidney Crosby's agent can claim Pamela Anderson and Jean Claude Van Damme as one-time co-workers.
-What has been the top goal, hit, fight and shootout goal of the Penguins season so far?
-Ryan Miller made 32 saves and led the Sabres to a 1-0 shutout at Florida.
-Bruins center Patrice Bergeron saw a neurologist.
-Former Penguins forward Alexei Kovalev has become a mentor with the Canadiens.
-An arrest warrant was issued for Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur.
-With forward Chad Kilger out of the lineup with due to personal reasons, the Maple Leafs recalled forward Ben Ondrus from the AHL.
-Panthers forward Olli Jokinen was questioned by Finnish authorities in their investigation of a drug ring.
-The Lightning will pursue a No. 1 goaltender this offseason.
-Nicklas Lidstrom had two assists and the game winning goal in a 3-2 win against the Coyotes.
-Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall suffered a shoulder injury last night.
-The Blue Jackets recalled forward Gilbert Brule from Syracuse of the AHL. Brule was the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft.
-Owen Nolan's first hat trick since 1999 helped the Flames edge the Sharks, 5-4.
-Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brian Rolston each had a goal and an assist for the Wild in a 5-1 rout of the Ducks.
-Marek Svatos scored two goals and had an assist and led the Avalanche to a 6-3 defeat of the Blackhawks.
-Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray has been put on injured reserve due to a chronic shoulder injury.
-Former Penguins prospect Daniel Carcillo returned to the Coyotes' lineup after missing five weeks with a knee injury.