Penguins routed by Islanders in debacle, 9-3

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- There were 351 penalty minutes assessed at Nassau Coliseum Friday night.

For a while, it seemed like the New York Islanders might score that many goals.

Ultimately, the Islanders only defeated the Penguins, 9-3, but New York's margin of victory certainly seemed larger.

Not quite as high as the number of players ejected from the game, though. Eleven received game misconducts, and numerous others left early because of sundry other offenses.

There also were 16 fighting majors.

The Islanders had entered the game looking to avenge a couple of teammates -- goalie Rick DiPietro and forward Blake Comeau -- injured in a 3-0 loss at Consol Energy Center nine nights earlier, and had to feel satisfied that they succeeded.

"We knew coming in here it would be a chippy game," Penguins goalie Brent Johnson said. "Things just got carried away."

Not only did the Islanders injure left winger Eric Tangradi, who got a possible concussion on a third-period hit by New York's Trevor Gillies, and torch the Penguins for the most goals as they have allowed since Nov. 8, 2003, but the Islanders repeatedly tried to punish their primary targets, Johnson and forward Max Talbot.

Johnson had one-punched DiPietro in the waning seconds of that Feb. 2 game, inflicting facial fractures that will prevent DiPietro from playing for a month or so, while Talbot had given Comeau a concussion with what the Islanders considered to be a cheap shot.

New York not only scored seven goals on Johnson, but minor league tough guy Micheal Haley skated the length of the ice to get at him in the third period. Unfortunately for Haley, Penguins enforcer Eric Godard arrived at Johnson's side at pretty much the same time, so all Haley got to show for his trouble was an early exit from the game.

If Haley happens to still be in the NHL when the teams meet again in the next to the last game of the regular season, the Penguins figure to look for a little vengeance of their own.

"A guy who would challenge the goalie, that's kind of a cheap move," Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. "We're going to play our game [April 8], but there will be consequences."

Talbot, meanwhile, had been attacked at center ice by winger Matt Martin in the second period, which triggered a brawl that resulted in six players being ejected, although Talbot didn't seem particularly damaged afterward.

Along with everything else, the Penguins got a scare in the waning seconds of the first period, when Letang was slashed on the right foot by New York center John Tavares, and was in obvious pain as he hobbled off the ice.

"I was going back to the front of the net, and I got a two-hander," Letang said. "That's the only think I remember ... I couldn't feel my foot at the beginning."

For a team already missing so much top-end talent, the thought of losing its finest defenseman in a game against an opponent that couldn't see a playoff spot with the Hubble telescope had to be positively chilling.

Letang returned for the start of the second period, however, and showed no major effects of the whack he had taken, which means that not quite everything was a disaster for the Penguins.

Just that pretty much everything else was. Like how the Penguins were humiliated by allowing nine to a team that, before this game, had not generated a single goal against them in 164 minutes, 26 seconds.

Of course, scores can be misleading, and that probably was the case with this one. Fact is, what the Islanders did to the Penguins was far more embarrassing than their margin of victory might suggest.

About the only consolation for the Penguins was that they were humiliated in relative privacy because the game drew a crowd of just 12,888.

New York went in front to stay at 8:51 of the opening period, when defenseman Travis Hamonic beat Johnson from above the right circle. Before the period ended, Jesse Joensuu (12:52), P.A. Parenteau (17:48) and Michael Grabner (19:12) put pucks behind Johnson.

Thus began a game the Penguins won't easily forget.

Trouble is, they have to do it before they face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.

Dave Molinari: .


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