Oh We’re Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain’t Gonna Take It
oh We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore
we’ve Got The Right To Choose And
there Ain’t No Way We’ll Lose It
this Is Our Life, This Is Our Song
we’ll Fight The Powers That Be Just
don’t Pick Our Destiny ’cause
you Don’t Know Us, You Don’t Belong
Those lyrics by 80’s hair band and Long Island natives Twisted Sister, have been blasted over the speakers at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for over 25 years now. But friday night, they were never so true.
By now, hockey fans across North America, and some non-hockey fans, know about last week’s one punch knockout Penguins goalie Brent Johnson delivered to the face of the New York Islanders goalie, Rick DiPietro. Lost in that game was the cheap shot that Penguins forward Maxime Talbot delivered to the Islanders Blake Comeau. The cheapshot left Comeau with a concussion, and he has been out of the lineup ever since. After the fight between the goalies, the TV cameras caught Johnson and fellow goalie Marc-Andre Fluery laughing it up on the bench.
When you look at the league leaders in fights, the Islanders are right up there. But that doesn’t really mean anything. The Islanders are the youngest team in the NHL and only have a few “tough guys”. Most of the young players are built on speed and not size. So recently, many teams have been taking their liberties with the more skilled players on the team. Most noticeably, the face of the franchise, 2009 #1 overall draft pick John Tavares. Tuesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, delivered a massive high hit on Tavares just after he took a shot on goal. While Tavares lay on the ice, none of his teammates even went after Phaneuf. None. As Tavares made his way to the bench, you could see him screaming at his team, and then slammed the door to the bench as hard as he could. This seemed to deliver a message.
Isles tough guy Zenon Konopka said before the game last night with the Penguins, that they were going to let the game dictate if there would be any “revenge” sought out. To paraphrase what he said, it was along the lines of…If the game gets to be 6-0 you may see some fights. Well Mr. Konopka, that’s just what you saw. The Islanders came out as a team on a mission. The were not only sending a message to the Penguins, but to the rest of the league. Even though the Islanders had the league’s 3rd worst record in the league, it’s not due to the lack of effort. Every game they work hard, but just don’t have the talent to compete night in and night out with the top teams in the league. But on any given night, THIS could happen.
Midway though the 1st period the Islanders had a 1-0 lead. Then the fun started. As the Isles started to take control of the play, the fights started. The first was between the Islanders Michael Haley (who by coincidence was leading the Islanders minor league team in penalty minutes) and the Penguins Craig Adams. This one wasn’t even close. K.O. for Haley. After the fight the Isles took a 2-0 lead, then a 3-0 lead. With a few min left in the period, Ex-Islander and notorious fighter Eric Goddard took on fan favorite Trevor Gillies. This matchup was more of a tussle, with no one landing any major punches. With 45 seconds left in the period, the Isles put their 4th puck of the period past Brent Johnson and it was clear that the Penguins were a defeated team already. At the end of the period, Pens defenseman Kris Letang slammed John Tavares into the corner boards and gave him a nice cross check for good measure. Tavares then delivered a vicious slash across Letang’s ankle then left the Penguin on his hands and knees for a good 5 minutes.
The Coliseum crowd was in a frenzy, and they had every right to be. The Isles set the tone early and often. But no one had any idea what was going to happen in the 2nd period. 4 minutes into the period it was 6-0 Islanders and the game was over. But not in the eyes of the Islanders. Young tough guy Matt Martin skated to center ice with Maxime Talbot and gave him a sucker punch for what he had done to Comeau. This started the next set of fireworks. The Isles Josh Bailey and Pens Pascal Dupuis had at it at the center ice logo along with the Isles Travis Hamonic and Pens Mike Rupp. Again, the Islanders won those fights, and the brawl lead to 99 penalty minutes and a handful of ejections. I’m not condoning what Matt Martin did, but that’s clearly sticking up for a fallen teammate. The message had been sent that the Isles are done being pushed around. But hey, it’s the NHL and there’s still another period to go. Thankfully the fisticuffs were over and we can get back to playing hockey….
Or not. After the brawl, both teams traded back to back goals to make it 8-2 heading into the 3rd period. Or should we call it Round 3? Five minutes into the final period, Trevor Gillies hit Eric Tangradi up high along the boards and he went down in a heap. Michael Haley got a hold of Talbot and gave him a few facial massages. As Haley was skating to the penalty box, Johnson skated out of his net and up to the top of the circles while shedding his equipment and yelling at Haley. So Haley went right to Johnson and the two started trading blows. But the exchange was short-lived as Pens goon Eric Goddard jumped off the bench to come to the aid of his goaltender. By leaving the bench Goddard will receive an automatic 10 game suspension. This latest melee’ with 107 penalty minutes resulted in ejections for Gillies, Goddard and Haley. The final big brawl came with about four minutes left in the game when Kyle Okposo was hit up high by Talbot. Zenon Konopka had enough and took down Talbot and stood over him while grabbing him by the neck of his sweater and verbally sending he message.
The Isles went on to win the game 9-3 but obviously no one will be talking about that. All the talk will be about the fights. As and Islanders fan, I was happy to see that when a team finally has enough of being pushed around it responds in a big way. Sure there were a lot of dirty plays that I was not happy about, but that’s hockey. This is a game where the players “police themselves”. Some people will be talking about how fighting needs to be banned in hockey and blah blah blah. Those are the people who don’t know about the game. When you push a team to their braking point, something like this is going to happen, and the team will grow together. They might not go on a 15 game winning streak, but the confidence that each player has in the guy to the left or right of him can make a world of difference.
*Last night the NHL suspended the Penguins Eric Goddard for 10 games, the Islanders TrevorGillies 9 games (the high hit was actually an elbow) and Matt Martin 4 games. Along with the suspensions, the Islanders were fined $100,000.