Penguins backup goaltender Brent Johnson stopped all 20 New York Islanders shots he faced Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, but he didn't get the shutout in a 3-0 win.
"Oh, no, the shutout doesn't really matter," Johnson said.
Johnson stopped all 20 Islanders shots, but willingly and gladly gave up what would have been his second shutout this season and 15th of his career. He reverted to old-school hockey when he stood up for teammate Matt Cooke and fought -- and decked -- Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro with 16.5 seconds left in regulation.
"I'm pretty proud of him," Cooke said. "He did a great job."
Johnson took exception to DiPietro clotheslining Cooke, a move that sparked a scrum in the right corner of the New York end. The Penguins' goaltender took off his mask and charged down the ice, leaving DiPietro no honorable recourse but to skate out to meet him.
Referee Rob Martell saw what was coming and met Johnson at the Islanders' blue line. Johnson, with a move injured teammate Sidney Crosby might bust, went right around Martell to meet up with DiPietro.
He then connected with a hard left to DiPietro's left cheek.
"He's got long arms," said DiPietro, who sported a welt from Johnson's haymaker.
The fighting goalies drew major penalties and game misconducts, so Johnson yielded to Marc-Andre Fleury for the closing seconds, meaning he was not credited with the shutout. Instead, he was an instant folk hero in his locker room.
"Wow. That was amazing," said forward Max Talbot. "If nobody knew he was a lefty, I think everybody knows now. It's something you don't see happen often, but he deked the ref and threw a bomb.
"It's something that gives a team a lot of energy, and it's something that's fun to see."
Up until Johnson swung, Talbot had been in line for some sort of hero status. He sat on 98 career points before getting an assist a night earlier against the New York Rangers and had played a strong game against the Islanders, continuing his recent trend.
When the Islanders pulled DiPietro late in the third period to try to get back into the game after early goals by Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma put Talbot on the ice, and it was obvious his teammates were trying to get him the goal.
He had a couple of chances, too, before Craig Adams finally set him up to score with 40.6 seconds left to make it 3-0.
"The biggest roar from our bench came when Max got that goal," Bylsma said. "A little bit of a reward for all the hard work he's done."
"It's like we won a [Stanley] Cup or something," said Talbot, who knows that feeling because he scored both goals in a 2-1 Cup-clinching victory against Detroit in 2009.
"The guys were joking [beforehand] but supporting me -- 'You're going to get it. I've got a good feeling.' It's nice to have the support of the guys."
Talbot earlier leveled the Islanders' Jack Hillen and Blake Comeau with strong shoulder checks. He hit a couple of posts. He helped the Penguins' penalty-killers stifle all five New York power plays.
The events of the night left Talbot giddy.
"Now the gate's open," he gushed.
Kennedy gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 8:08 of the first period with a power-play goal. He threw a shot from near the bottom of the right circle toward the net, and it slipped inside the near post.
Kunitz was at nearly the same spot after carrying the puck across the blue line when he shoveled a backhander toward the net that knuckled in off of DiPietro for a 2-0 Penguins lead at 13:10 of the first period.
The Penguins moved into third place in the NHL standings with 70 points in 52 games and are 16-4-1 in their past 21 home games. They are 4-1 in the five games that star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have both missed, 7-3-1 in the 11 Crosby has missed.
And they are doing it without a lot of scoring punch -- they are averaging 2.6 goals a game since Crosby got sidelined by a concussion --but with a good bit of character.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published February 3, 2011 5:00 AM