Monday, December 17, 2007

Game recap: Penguins 3, Islanders 2

Plenty of Islanders fans and personnel (and this blogger) have defended Chris Simon these last few months, noting that he is a good teammate and person and shouldn't be judged for the swipe he took at Ryan Hollweg's head last season. And by all accounts, Simon is a good guy who has made some bad decisions.

What he did against the Penguins, however, goes well beyond that and there is no defense for it. Slew-footing Jarkko Ruutu as he's stepping into the bench is one thing. Intentionally stepping on his foot with your blade while he is down is quite another.

It doesn't matter what the situation is, or how tense the game is, or who the opposing player is or what he may have said or done to possibly instigate such an act (and Ruutu has a rep) -- it's wrong, and Simon had plenty of time to think about it. That it happened with less than six minutes left in the third and the Isles down a goal makes it more mind-boggling. What was accomplished? How does that help the team? You have to be smarter than that, there's just no excuse.

The five-minute match penalty just about killed any hope of an Isles comeback, although they did have some shorthanded chances, including a great one on a breakaway by Mike Sillinger that was stopped by Dany Sabourin.

That the Islanders were that close seemed unlikely after a first period that saw the Pens dominate, jumping out to a 2-0 lead with goals less than four minutes apart. A giveaway led to Sidney Crosby's goal and then Ryan Whitney beat Rick DiPietro (37 saves) with a wrist shot. (Full disclosure, Whitney - like D.P. - went to my alma mater, BU, and is on my fantasy hockey team. So I wasn't THAT upset.)

Give the Isles credit for battling back at home, netting two in the second on a nice goal by Richard Park off a feed from Mike Comrie. Then just 45 seconds later, a beautiful breakout from Bergenheim to Vasicek to Satan and then back to Vasicek charging the net, tying the score. Things were looking up and the crowd was rocking.

It didn't last, as Tyler Kennedy (three points) scored on the power play to put the Pens up, 3-2, before the end of the second. It was Pittsburgh's only PPG in six chances.

The Isles will get ready for the Sabres at home Wednesday night (can we draw more than 10,000 on a weeknight?), and wait to hear from the NHL about Simon, who will likely get the seventh suspension of his career. You have to question what he's bringing to the table at this point, and whether it's worth it.

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