Ever hear the expression “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”? Well, that’s exactly what happened in Saturday night’s game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The last time these two met before Saturday’s blood bath was a tough contest which featured a fight between Penguins goalie Brent Johnson and Islanders goalie Rick Dipietro, that left Dipietro with a broken face.
That game featured 104 penalty minutes, including five 10-minute game misconducts and four five-minute fighting majors.
Most fans knew the game would be rough and not for the kind hearted, but no one could have seen what happened coming. After jumping to an early 6–0 lead in the second period, all hell broke loose at Nassau Coliseum. When it was all said and done, the two teams combined for 346 penalty minutes, 275 of which were for either fighting or game misconduct. If you have the time to do so, check out the video, but a warning, it is 17 minutes long.
So what has the NHL done in response to this? Not as much as the casual fan would think. Only three players received major suspensions, Trevor Gillies from the Islanders got nine games for a sucker punch, teammate Matt Martin will sit out for four games, and Penguins winger Eric Godard received a 10 game suspension for leaving the bench to protect his goalie. Both teams were also hit with $100,000 fines.
Pittsburgh owner and NHL legend Mario Lemieux expressed his anger with the game and at the NHL for not handing out stiffer penalties as a result of the melee. In a statement released on Saturday, Lemieux said “We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players,” Lemieux said. “We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.” He went onto say, “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.”
The two teams will meet again on April 8th in a game the NHL will certainly be paying close attention too.
By the way, the Islanders won the game 9–3.