Circling the wagons

Jan. 20. 2008

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With Sidney Crosby out, the Penguins rally around Evgeni Malkin and Dany Sabourin to pull out a 2-0 win at Montreal and claim first place in the Atlantic Division.

PREGAME

-Right off the bat, FSN Pittsburgh shows Sidney Crosby injuring his ankle. We call party foul.

-Bob Errey busts out the pterodactyl nickname for Jordan Staal early.

-What the heck is going on with Alexei Kovalev's hair? He looks like Colin Farrell in "Alexander."

-We're ashamed to admit we actually watch that awful movie.

-Dany Sabourin (remember him?) gets the start in net for the Penguins.

-Cristobal Huet is his counterpart in Montreal's goal.

-The Penguins' official scratches are Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Ryan Lannon.

-The Habs scratched Steve Begin and Patrice Brisebois.

-As the game begins, the theme to Hockey Night In Canada is played.

FIRST PERIOD

19:46: What in the name of Martin Sonnenberg is going on? Another Penguins player gets hurt? This time it's Colby Armstrong. He's chasing a puck into the corner with Roman Hamrlik. The Montreal defenseman nudges him with his shoulder and sends Armstrong into the boards hard butt-first. Armstrong lays on the ice in a lot of discomfort. Several players and team trainer Chris Stewart come out to check on him. Dr. Errey theorizes Armstrong could have a hip pointer or a "butt pointer." Errey and Steigerwald also point out Hamrlik should've been called for interference. Also, the NHL instituted a new rule this past offseason regarding interference that results in an injury to an opponent. Quoting the NHL's rule book, rules 56.4 and 56.5 states

"56.4 Major Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence, to a player or goalkeeper guilty of interfering with an opponent (see 56.5).

56.5 Game Misconduct Penalty -- When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed."

So basically the officials dropped the ball big-time there. Armstrong and Stewart leave the ice and head to the locker room. Ugh...

(By the way, you have no idea how jacked we are being able to find that picture of Yancey Thigpen dropping a ball for a would-be touchdown that probably would've won a game for the Steelers in Green Bay Christmas Eve in 1995. The Packers ended up winning that game. We remember watching that game at our aunt and uncle's house.)

18:13: Racing for a loose puck behind the net, Josh Gorges slams Talbot into the boards.

18:09: Georges Laraque takes a really stupid elbowing penalty. He goes into the corner and sticks both his elbows into Francois Bouillon's grill. What a way to start the game. Lose another regular everyday player and put the NHL's second-best power play on the ice.

16:38: Christopher Higgins comes streaking down the right side and whips a nice wrister on net. Sabourin snags it with a nicer glove.

15:27: FSN Pittsburgh offers a peek at the lines the Penguins planned to go with before Armstrong's injury.

Malone-Malkin-Sykora

Talbot-Staal-Armstrong

Ruutu-Christensen-Hall

Stone-Taffe-Laraque

Just as Errey talks about Armstrong's absence, Armstrong re-emerges from the locker room. Someone asks Armstrong about what was wrong with him, Armstrong responds with a word that rhymes with a certain brand of alcohol.

14:39: Oh that sneaky Kovy. Kovalev throws a puck from behind the net off Sabourin's pads. It drops into the crease in Sabourin's five-hole. Adam Hall puts his stick behind Sabourin just to be safe as the Penguins goaltender drops to cover the puck. A brief video replay confirms the non-goal.

14:36: Steigerwald accuses Armstrong of swearing like a sailor.

13:46: Laraque makes amends for his bad penalty. He controls the puck behind the net for about eight seconds almost like Wayne Gretzky. (Almost.) Mark Streit pressures him and Laraque switches to the backhand. Laraque slides a pass into the crease to Jeff Taffe who snaps a wrister past a helpless Huet. Penguins 1-0.

12:34: FSN Pittsburgh pulls out a quality list. The youngest rosters in the NHL by average age:

TeamYearsDaysPenguins26217Coyotes26247Oilers271Capitals2735Blackhawks2751

10:59: During a stoppage, Tom Jones' "It Not Unusual" is played:

7:14: Brooks Orpik makes a brutal turnover deep in his own end. Andrei Kostsitsyn steals the puck and from behind the net he feeds a pass to Kovalev in the slot. Kovalev fires a shot, but it's right into Sabourin's torso. A player like Kovalev has to bury that. He can place the puck anywhere. He should've on that play.

2:13: Chasing for a loose puck, Rob Scuderi gets dumped by Andrei Kostsitsyn.

0:05: Guillaume Latendresse tries to maneuver between Darryl Sydor and Ryan Whitney. Sydor appears to get away with a trip.

0:00: End of period. Jarkko Ruutu and Mike Komisarek get into it along the boards as the horn sounds. Ruutu can be heard spurting out some gibberish. Penguins 1, Canadiens 0.

FIRST INTERMISSION

-Errey mentions that Armstrong is done for the night.

-FSN Pittsburgh shows the video clip of Crosby's injury again. Not cool.

SECOND PERIOD

18:55: It's a period late, but the officials finally call Hamrlik for interference. He dumps Ruutu while chasing for a loose puck.

16:48: Steigerwald tells the world Colby Armstrong is out with a bruised hip.

15:45: Evgeni Malkin weaves by Michael Ryder with a nice move, comes in on net and slides a backhanded pass to Sergei Gonchar in the slot. Gonchar fires a shot low but Huet is up to the task and makes a nice save.

13:32: While fighting for the puck along the boards with Maxim Lapierre, Ruutu turns around and is pasted by former Penguin Tom Kostopoulos with a clean hit. Errey complains that it was a cheap hit, but Ruutu has delivered hits like that countless times without the protests of Errey.

13:07: Malkin springs Petr Sykora on a breakaway with a fantastic tape-to-tape pass from his own blue line. Sykora bears down on net and shoots low. Huet keeps the puck out with his right leg and covers up the rebound.

10:52: Kovalev comes down the crease with two Penguins in front of him. Instead of trying to beat them, he shoots that wicked wrister of his. Sabourin is able to fight it off and make the save.

8:36: Erik Christensen takes a slashing penalty.

8:00: The Penguins make a bad change and leave Darryl Sydor alone on a three-on-one. Saku Koivu tries to make a pass but Sydor reads it well and breaks the play up.

4:54: Coming back from commercial, Errey remarks how well Michel Therrien is dressed. We couldn't agree more. Therrien looks like he just came from a wedding. And not some wedding he didn't really want to go to. More like one of those weddings you're really eager to attend.

4:45: Ruutu is chasing after a puck in the corner. Streit grabs him by the shoulder and pulls him down. Streit gets two minutes for holding and Ruutu gets called for diving. It's a bad call. Ruutu was basically penalized for being Jarkko Ruutu. Four-on-four.

0:53: Errey talks about Guy Carbonneau looking younger. We don't know about that. He still looks like the Old Man of the Mountain, that rock formation that used to be in New Hampshire.

0:00: End of period. Penguins 1, Canadiens 0.

SECOND INTERMISSION

-The Canadiens are dominating the shot totals, 26-15.

-We are denied the brilliance of Mike Yeo as Andre Savard is interviewed before the third period.

-Holy Jim Waite! Steigerwald makes a Jamie Storr reference.

-The Penguins will get 1:07 of power-play time on clean ice.

THIRD PERIOD

15:52: Andrei Markov sneaks a wrister through traffic that Sabourin was somehow able to deflect away.

15:47: Koivu digs the puck out of the corner and backhands it towards the net. Higgins tries to jam it in past Sabourin, but the Penguins goaltender holds his ground.

13:36: Malkin grabs a loose puck and tries to skate it out of his own end. Mathieu Dandenault trips him up and gets two minutes. Dandenault is so mad at the call he is literally shaking like Renton in that withdrawal scene from "Trainspotting."

13:02: Christensen fires a wrister through traffic. Huet knocks it down and covers it up. Maxime Talbot digs at it. Komisarek attacks him. Talbot attacks back. Both players end up throwing punches at each other yet nothing is called. Christensen holds Talbot back like one of Mike Tyson's bodyguards.

12:31: Tomas Plekanec steals the puck off Kris Letang at the point and flies down the boards. He approaches the Penguins net and tries to feed it into the slot to Kovalev, but Sydor makes a fine play and kicks away the puck.

7:26: Malkin tries to weave around Komisarek at the Montreal blueline, but the Canadiens defenseman pops him with an ice hard check.

6:43: Komisarek hitting anything in a white jersey. This time he slams Talbot against the boards.

2:28: Malkin gets away with a trip on Kostopoulos.

1:28: Andrei Kastsitsyn dumps Scuderi in the corner.

1:24: Kovalev snaps a nice wrister off. Sabourin makes the save down low. Huge. The Habs take a timeout and pull Huet for an extra attacker.

0:58: Malkin grabs the puck in his own end. Koivu checks him at the blue line but Malkin gets a shot on the empty cage. The trickles down toward the net and hits the post. Malkin couldn't do that again if you gave him 100 tries.

0:25: Kovalev works the puck behind the net and tries to center on a backhand. Gonchar and Scuderi combine and break up the play.

0:12: Sykora flips the puck from his own slot into empty space in the Canadiens' end. Streit labors to get to it only to have Malkin fly by him, get to the puck first and zip a backhander in for one of us. Penguins 2, Canadiens 0.

0:00: End of game. Penguins 2, Canadiens 0.

POSTGAME

-Did Dany Sabourin make a statement or what? Observers of the team had pretty much written him off as the odd man out once Marc-Andre Fleury was healthy enough to return. Ty Conklin's performance had essentially written Sabourin a one-way ticket back to Wilkes-Barre. Sabourin faced 31 shots and made his case to stay in the NHL. Ray Shero's going to have a tough time figuring out who to send to the AHL.

-Why exactly are the Canadiens called the Canadiens? They only have nine people from that country on their roster, the lowest of any Canadian team.

-He only had one goal which was an empty netter, but Malkin played fantastic last night. He was skating at a different speed than anyone else on the ice and with apologies to the nice hit Komisarek laid on him in the third period, Malkin pretty much dominated play anytime he had the puck. He was even doing "dirty" things like blocking shots and back-checking. Maybe it was his snub from the All-Star game or the fact that Crosby is injured or even a combination of both, but Malkin looked like the franchise player of this team. Clearly Shero made the wrong choice to lock up Sidney Crosby to a long-term contract before Malkin.

-Sydor may have played his best game all season.

-It might be a bit early to print those Atlantic Division champion t-shirts, but the Penguins are in first place in the Atlantic Division this morning with 57 points.

-Don't hold your breath though. The Devils play host to the Maple Leafs today. New Jersey has 55 points.

-The Flyers also have 55 points and they host a banged-up Senators team today.

-As The Pensblog aptly pointed out, this is Ruutu's third diving penalty of the season. If you get three, you get suspended, even if they're bunk penalties.

-The Canadiens didn't exactly miss Crosby last night.

-This was only the third shutout the Penguins have ever had against the Canadiens. The others occurred in a 4-0 win in Pittsburgh March 3, 1971 (Les Binkley) and Dec. 1, 1997 in a 1-0 win at Montreal (Tom Barrasso).

-The officiating was pretty bad. Each team got away with a lot of stuff.

-Dave Molinari's recap.

-Game Summary.

-Event Summary.

-Highlights.

EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS

Penguins

-The severity of Crosby's ankle injury is still unclear.

-This is why we love and fear the Internet at the same time. Someone has started a blog called Sid's Ankle. In all seriousness, there's some pretty sharp material there. Check it out.

-The trade deadline will be here before you know it.

-Former Penguins forward Karl Stewart had a goal for the Norfolk Admirals in 4-0 shutout of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

-Aaron Clarke had the only goal for the Wheeling Nailers who were once again routed by Elmira, 7-1.

-Random YouTube find of the day: Ken "The Rat" Linesman going low on John Cullen:

-Do you think the Penguins are still a playoff caliber team without Crosby? You can vote on that question here.

Atlantic Division

-Scott Hartnell recorded his second hat trick of the month as his Flyers beat the Islanders, 5-3.

-Rangers forward and former Penguin Jaromir Jagr got mad at NBC commentator Mike Milbury for some disparaging comments. As a result, Jagr refused to offer any interviews with NBC prior to their nationally televised game with Boston today.

Northeast Division

-Shootout goals by Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel gave the Bruins a 4-3 win against the Rangers.

-In something you don't see everyday, Chara opted to blast a slapper by Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout:

-The Bruins honored Willie O'Ree prior to the game.

-Nikolai Antropov and Alexander Steen each had a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs in a 4-2 win against the Sabres.

-Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron may miss the rest of the season. He was injured Oct. 27 on a hit from behind by Randy Jones of the Flyers.

-Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wants to take care of Daniel Alfredsson's dental insurance for life.

Southeast Division

-Johan Holmqvist made 25 saves and recorded his second consecutive shutout in as many nights as the Lightning claimed a 2-0 win at Ottawa.

-Viktor Kozlov had two goals while rookie Nicklas Lidstrom had four assists for the Capitals in a 5-3 win against Florida. The win gave Washington a .500 winning percentage for the first time since November. Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau remarked, "We've officially reached mediocrity."

-Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Boyle may return from a wrist injury before the All-Star break. He has only played in four games this season after cutting his wrist with a skate in the preaseason.

-Crosby's injury may give Ilya Kovalchuk an opportunity to start in front of his home crowd at the All-Star game.

-The Thrashers recalled former Penguins defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski from Chicago of the AHL.

Central Division

-Patrick Lalime is on fire. The former Penguin made 38 saves and led the Blackhawks to a 2-1 win at Phoenix. Chicago has won four consecutive games and Lalime has been in net for all of them. Three of those wins have come in shootouts.

-Dan Cleary, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg each had a goal and two assists for the Red Wings who rolled to a 6-3 win at San Jose.

-Scott Nichol had two short-handed goals for the Predators in a 5-2 win at St. Louis.

-The Blue Jackets activated forward Fredrik Modin and defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen from injured reserve.

-The Predators are still having trouble selling tickets.

Northwest Division

-The Canucks honored former Penguin Markus Naslund last night for playing in his 1,000th career game Thursday:

-No word yet when the Penguins plan to hold Alek Stojanov's 1,000th game ceremony.

-The Oilers recalled defenseman Matt Greene from Springfield of the AHL.

-The ice at Xcel Energy Center has been less than ideal for the Wild.

Pacific Division

-Jason LaBarbera made 43 saves while Alexander Frolov had a goal and an assist as the Kings claimed a 4-3 win at Vancouver.

-Mike Smith made 29 saves and led the Stars to a 3-1 win against the Blue Jackets.

Campbell Conference

-Don Cherry sort of took a swipe at Sergei Zubov last night:

-Former CBC broadcaster Don Wittman, one of the great voices of Hockey Night in Canada, passed away.



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