Islanders pound Penguins in slugfest
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With nine days to stew since Max Talbot's questionable hit on Blake Comeau, goalie Brent Johnson's face-shattering punch on Rick DiPietro and an embarrassing shutout loss in Pittsburgh last week, the Islanders hinted at retribution.
But there was no subtlety in Friday night's slugfest at Nassau Coliseum.
Humiliating the Penguins with a startling 9-3 rout was not enough. Instead, the Islanders dished out beatings to nearly every player in white, with call-up Micheal Haley single-handedly taking on the two Most Wanted Penguins.
The teams totaled 346 penalty minutes, a record for an Islanders game, and the tension was so thick that an iron-grate fence was used to divide the corridor between the dressing rooms after the game.
"There was a little history between the two teams. We wanted to make sure that we took care of what we needed to take care of," the Islanders' Matt Martin said. "It was an emotional game, and that's how it played out."
Ten players - five for both teams - were thrown out with game misconducts. Haley faces a lengthy suspension after his fisticuffs.
"I'm sure on both sides there will be something," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said when asked if he expects supplementary discipline from the league.
Haley, who leads the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers with 144 penalty minutes, was summoned for the fight-filled contest, and he lived up to his reputation.
After taking down Talbot in a third-period scrap, Haley decided his night wasn't done. Instead of leaving the ice, he skated to the Penguins' end and tangled with Johnson, who was pulled in the second period and then sent back in for Marc-Andre Fleury to begin the third.
Penguins enforcer Eric Godard jumped the bench to intervene, but not before Haley descended on Johnson. Haley received an instigator penalty, two fighting majors and two game misconducts in the sequence, which culminated with the 12,888 fans in attendance chanting his name.
"Emotions took over," Haley said. "Honestly, right now it's just a blur."
"He comes right up here and falls right into our family," Zenon Konopka said. "Cousin Haley comes up and jumps right in, and everyone follows suit."
The Islanders' revenge mission was apparent early. Even with a 6-0 lead and Johnson yanked, the Islanders were not satisfied.
For all the undertones and innuendo that surrounded the team's first meeting since Comeau suffered a concussion and DiPietro was sidelined with facial fractures/knee swelling, there was no question about Martin's intent as he jumped Talbot from behind and tried to force him into a fight at 5:21 of the second.
Martin, who also is likely to face supplementary discipline from the league, grabbed Talbot and began punching him despite Talbot's refusal to engage.
That sparked a brawl that resulted in three players from each side slapped with game misconducts. Travis Hamonic squared off against Mike Rupp and unlikely pugilist Josh Bailey dropped the gloves against Pascal Dupuis, with all four players tossed.
It was a goalfest for the Islanders. John Tavares had four points (one goal, three assists) and Matt Moulson (two goals, one assist), Michael Grabner (two goals, one assist) and Hamonic (one goal, two assists) had three points each.
"It felt good to put a lot by [Johnson]," Moulson said. "Hopefully, Ricky got a little satisfaction from it."
The Islanders went to work early on Johnson. Hamonic one-timed a deflected shot to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 8:51. Jesse Joensuu beat Johnson at 12:52 and PA Parenteau tallied on the Islanders' sole power play of the period at 17:48. Grabner scored his 20th of the season at 19:12.
Tavares redirected a shot at 3:16 of the second period. Moulson scored twice in the second to reach 21 goals. Haley scored his first NHL goal at 3:46.
Haley's sudden arrival seemed to be a concrete indication of what type of game the Islanders expected. But with Haley leading the Sound Tigers in goals (12), Capuano said the might of his fists was not the sole reason for his promotion.
Haley wasn't on the team last week when the bad blood began to curdle, but he did his homework.
"I know what happened," he said before the game.
"This team is kind of sick of being pushed around all the time," Martin said. "I think we made a statement out there tonight, that we're not a laughingstock. We can take care of ourselves."