NEW YORK, N.Y. – The Pittsburgh Penguins’ rough weekend in New York got a little bumpier when the team bus hit a car while heading to an outdoor practice.
In the morning hours Saturday following a fight-filled 9-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Friday night, the Penguins dressed in their full gear—minus skates—at Madison Square Garden, where they will play the Rangers on Sunday.
They hopped a bus for the short trip to Central Park, but were derailed by the minor accident. The players left the bus and hailed cabs to take them to the makeshift practice.
“It was quite a sight,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “I think the gentleman involved with the accident backed off a little bit when he saw a whole hockey team get out with sticks and gloves in their hands.
“If he had known anything about last night, maybe that’s why he backed off.”
The NHL was expected to announce any suspensions to the Penguins and Islanders later Saturday. The game produced 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts.
The Islanders came into the game angry because of the previous meeting between the teams nine days earlier that featured a fight between New York goalie Rick DiPietro and Pittsburgh counterpart Brent Johnson. DiPietro broke bones in his face when Johnson hit him with one punch.
Also, a questionable but unpenalized hit by Pittsburgh’s Max Talbot against Blake Comeau, that has left the Islanders forward out of action since, made Talbot a target in the rematch. He was jumped and punched by Matt Martin in the second period, sparking the first of two major brawls in Saturday’s game.
“Obviously, you never expect to get grabbed by the guy and get punched like that,” Talbot said. “I don’t think I’m a guy that would stand down if someone comes to my face and asks me.”
Talbot also took on Micheal Haley in the third period in the second part of fight night.
The teams will conclude the six-game season series on Long Island on April 8. The Penguins could be the angry bunch then.
“We don’t like them and they don’t like us,” Pittsburgh forward Pascal Dupuis said. “It shows on the ice.
“But we have plenty of hockey between here and that game. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
One player who certainly is facing at least a 10-game suspension is Penguins enforcer Eric Godard, who left the bench in the third period to come to Johnson’s defence.
Johnson was rushed by Haley, who skated down the ice to challenge the goalie to a fight. Godard joined the fray and will now face the consequences.
Bylsma said he told players not to hop onto the ice. Rule 70.10 stipulates the first player to leave the bench during a fight or to start one shall be suspended automatically for 10 games.
“I am aware of the rule, but at that moment you’re not thinking about what the things are,” Godard said. “I just saw him skating toward Johnny and I just kind of went.
“Ten games is pretty long, especially when we’re in a tough spot right now with a lot of guys out of the lineup. Yes, I regret it, but no, I am going to try to defend my teammates. I am kind of torn with that.”
Martin and Islanders teammate Trevor Gillies, both among the ejected players, were scheduled to have in-person disciplinary hearings Saturday at the team hotel in Buffalo. The Islanders will play the Sabres on Sunday.
Gillies was given an elbowing major and was ejected in the third after he charged Eric Tangradi, leaving the Penguins forward with concussion-like symptoms that will keep him out of Sunday’s game, at least.
New York’s Zenon Konopka was also slated for a hearing because of his involvement after he came onto the ice during a legal line change and joined an ongoing altercation. He received a roughing penalty and a misconduct during the third-period brawl.
Haley, who was not scheduled for a hearing Saturday, was called up from Bridgeport of the AHL earlier Friday to make his NHL season debut in a game the Islanders expected to be physical. He had 144 penalty minutes in 50 games at Bridgeport this season.
“It was a pretty entertaining, emotional game. I was glad to be a part of it,” Haley said. “My job is to be ready when I get the call, come up and contribute any way I can.”
The Penguins knew what to expect from him.
“We knew what kind of player he was. He did basically what they brought him to do,” Dupuis said.