Two days, three suspensions and $100,000 later, and the drama still ain’t done.
The NHL came down hard on the Islanders for the ugly beatdown against the Penguins Friday night at Nassau Coliseum but neither side seems satisfied.
Following the mayhem that ensued during the Islanders 9-3 rout of the Penguins, Trevor Gillies was suspended nine games, Matt Martin four and the Islanders were slapped with a $100,000 fine. For the Penguins, Eric Godard was given an automatic ten-game suspension for leaving the bench.
Islanders GM Garth Snow and several players were surprised at the harsh sentences—particularly to Gillies—and Penguins Co-Owner Mario Lemieux blasted the league for being too lenient.
“I don’t understand why we got a $100,000 fine. It’s hockey. Emotions get high. Boston-Montreal have a fight-fest game and it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. We go intense and obviously, it's not. It's tough,” said Konopka, who had an in-person hearing along with Martin and Gillies Saturday but was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Both Konopka and Snow came out in defense of Gillies, whose elbow on Eric Tangradi left Tangradi with concussion-like symptoms.
“I thought it was extremely hard on [Gillies]," Konopka said. "Guy plays hard. He’s got a wife and two kids. And compared to other instances, whether it’s Matt Cooke or whoever you want to compare them to, for a first-time offender I thought it was pretty harsh.”
Although Snow tried his best to be diplomatic toward league disciplinarian Colin Campbell, he also stuck up for Gillies.
“The hit that Trevor administered--I think he had the right intentions. In fact, he ended up maybe being reverse-hit a little bit and falling to the ice. At that point I think he was probably getting off the ice in engagement mode. Things happen pretty fast and that's the way I saw that play unfold."
Snow also pointed to some incidents that he felt went unnoticed by the league, and parted with what seemed to be a veiled shot at the league for not fining Penguins coach Dan Bylsma for Eric Godard's decision to jump the bench.
"Matt Moulson almost got his head taken off after he scored a goal to make it [7-2]. I know John Tavares got cross-checked twice in the corner. There are plays that happened on both sides. But it's not for me to judge. I'm very proud that our team showed restraint--that no one left the bench to create a bench-clearing brawl scenario."
Clearly, Lemieux didn’t agree.
In a statement released by the Penguins, Lemieux described Friday’s events as a “travesty” and said it was “painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that."
“If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it,” Lemieux said.
In response to a request from Newsday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said:
“We are entirely comfortable with how Friday night’s events were handled. We have no other response to Mr. Lemieux’s statement.”
Snow declined to comment on Lemieux’s statement.
Both Gillies and Martin told Newsday they were disappointed with the punishments they received.
“Big-time disappointed,” Gillies said.
“It was a decision that the league made based on how it looked. In watching it myself it looked a lot worse than it was," Martin said of jumping Max Talbot from behind. "I never really intended to sucker punch [Talbot], I didn’t sucker punch him. I grabbed him to throw a punch, but as soon as I saw he wanted no part of it, I stopped myself.”
“I understand where the league is coming from. If I were in the situation where I did throw a punch that could’ve been very dangerous,” Martin said. “I respect the decision they made and it won’t happen again.”