Islanders' Martin, Gillies suspended
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The Islanders wanted to send a distinct message to the Penguins and everyone else around the league - that they stick up for each other at all costs.
They made their case, but it came at a steep price.
After the utter mayhem that unfolded at Nassau Coliseum in the Islanders' 9-3 rout of Pittsburgh on Friday, Trevor Gillies was suspended nine games for his elbow on Eric Tangradi and Matt Martin received a four-game ban for his ambush of Penguins forward Max Talbot. The Isles also were fined $100,000.
Penguins winger Eric Godard received an automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the bench to join the third-period brawl.
The display resulted in 10 players thrown out with game misconducts and a whopping 346 penalty minutes.
The roiling anger between the two teams was sparked nine days earlier when Talbot's blind-side hit on Blake Comeau left Comeau with a concussion. With more than a week for those feelings to fester, the game reeked of revenge.
"It's those payback games that we don't like, especially when it comes to injuries," league disciplinarian Colin Campbell told Newsday. "Those can be scary."
Campbell said the incidents involving Martin and Gillies were the main concern throughout the hearing, which lasted about three hours. Zenon Konopka's actions - reviewed as a potential violation of Rule 70.2, when a player makes a line change, then starts an altercation - were considered more minor.
Present during the hearings, held back-to-back in the team's hotel in downtown Buffalo, were Campbell, senior vice president of hockey operations Kris King, NHLPA associate counsel Roman Stoykewych, each player, each player's agent, Islanders general manager Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuano.
According to one person with knowledge of the situation, Haley's instigator penalty and two-game misconduct - assessed during the game - were deemed sufficient punishment.
Although some people assumed that it was Rick DiPietro's brief and humiliating brawl with Johnson last week that sparked the rumble, it was not.
The result of DiPietro's scrap with Johnson was unfortunate - DiPietro was sidelined four to six weeks with facial fractures and knee swelling after one wicked punch - but not unfair.
The bad blood began earlier in the Islanders' embarrassing 3-0 shutout loss in Pittsburgh when Comeau suffered a concussion on a blind-side hit from Talbot, who received no penalty on the play.
Comeau, who has yet to play since Talbot's hit, expressed gratitude to his teammates.
"It's a good feeling for me that the guys saw what happened," he said. "I guess you could say they were sticking up for me. I appreciate that from all the guys. I think that goes to show what type of team we have."
Konopka said of the display: "We have a young, talented team and there have been a lot of liberties taken throughout the course of the season. It can only be built up so much before it comes out . . . It wasn't just a direct hit on Pittsburgh. They just kind of fell in the way. There were a lot of emotions built up. Sometimes something like this is healthy for a team. Some people outside the hockey world might think I'm crazy to say that, but it will build for the rest of this year and for the future of the organization."