Two goaltenders in an altercation near center ice? Sounds familiar.
Just one game after Rick DiPietro was dropped by a monster punch from Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson, Kevin Poulin was sent down to the ice by an opposing netminder.
But the sharp elbow that Senators backup Robin Lehner delivered to Poulin didn’t have nearly the same effect as Johnson’s blow, which will sideline DiPietro for four to six weeks with facial fractures.
The foolish penalty — taken with both teams exiting the ice at the end of the second period — gave the Islanders a two-man advantage to begin the third and ultimately the game-winning goal in their 5-3 win over Ottawa Saturday night.
Rob Schremp scored two goals, including the clincher, in the Islanders’ feisty victory. With Lehner pulled and the Senators already on the power-play, Frans Nielsen added an empty-net goal on the penalty skill with nine seconds remaining to seal the win.
“It was kind of a bad penalty for their goalie to take and it was good to make him pay for it,” said Schremp, who laughed when asked if he was surprised by Lehner’s actions.
“It’s kind of childish. We used to do that in Pee Wees when we were pouting. I didn’t think it was really necessary.”
Lehner, who replaced Brian Elliott to begin the second, told reporters after the game that he was provoked by Poulin.
“I was going off and came around the Islander guy—I don’t know the name of the goalie—but he skates against me and starts screaming at me. I put my shoulder into him and he falls easily on his back. It wasn’t an elbow, that’s for sure.”
Poulin refuted Lehner’s claim.
“I didn’t say anything,” countered Poulin, who said he was glad he stayed composed.
“It was frustrating, but I kept my mind in the hockey game and they didn’t score in the third.”
Tensions were already high before Lehner’s jab.
With the game tied at 3 a heated brawl erupted near the Senators net late in the second period. Both John Tavares and Milan Michalek earned four minutes for roughing and Andrew MacDonald was given a ten-minute misconduct.
Matt Moulson, who was also involved in the fracas, was incensed to see his friend and linemate Tavares punched in the back of the head by Michalek.
“It was a guy taken advantage of someone in a defenseless position,” said Moulson, who scored the game’s first goal at 4:10 in the first. “I was mad. I thought it was questionable that [Michalek] didn’t get an extra penalty on it. I guess he got away with it.”
Entering last night’s game Poulin had given up only one goal in each of his previous two starts, but he gave up three goals on the first five shots he faced.
But after the Islanders and Senators traded goals three times in the first period—Michael Grabner also tallied for the Islanders—Poulin was impressively poised the following 40 minutes.
He made 20 saves to lead his team to its second win in three games.
“It’s been his strength. He’s a confident kid, He wants to be that guy. It’s a tough position to play,” coach Jack Capuano said.