Let me cover the Clueless Zebras first. The nonsense with Hal Gill and Colby Armstrong was one of those things that just makes you want to pull your hair out as a fan of the NHL. For anyone who didn't see it, Gill finished off a check on Army with a solid hit, knocking Colby on his butt. Unfortunately, it didn't stop there. Gill hit Colby when he was on the ice, and not just one of those "I'll fall on you so you can't get up" type of hits, but rather more like a few cross checks while Colby is down. The camera angle that FSN had showed it best - VanMassenhoven was staring right at everything that was happening. Colby got up and said something to Gill, who then followed Colby (who was skating away), hit him again and knocked him down again, in full view of VanMassenhoven, and nowhere NEAR the puck. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's interference at the least and probably roughing.
As a fan of the game, I know that fighting is part of the action, and I like it as much as the next guy. This wasn't fighting or "being tough" - it was just plain dumb. It's what made the NHL largely unwatchable before the lockout. It's what happens when you let the CZs on the ice make a "judgement" call. If I could ever ask the NHL for one thing, it would be "Please make it stop!!" It really detracts from the product on the ice, and it doesn't need to. It's just dumb.
Anyway, to segue into something that's not quite as whiny... this felt like an episode of My Name is Earl later on. The Leafs had built up some bad karma with the Armstrong incident and a pretty blatant hit from behind near the boards on Petrovicky by Kilger, who could only see Petro's numbers when he plastered him into the boards. Pretty cheap. Just like in My Name is Earl, karma showed the Leafs the error of their ways twice. The first time, Petro got into a fight with Kris Newbury. Petro caught him with a hard right and Newbury was knocked out cold. Not something you usually see (hopefully Newbury is okay). Karma 1, Leafs 0. In OT, the Leafs drew a penalty on Scuderi. Immediately after the ensuing face off, Eaton gets between Antropov and the puck, and Antropov gets his stick tangled up with Eaton, knocking him down. Penalty on Antropov. Karma 2, Leafs 0. Then, while playing three on three hockey, the Pens get an odd man break. McCabe is down on the ice and Staal fakes a shot, right at his head. McCabe turns his head, allowing Staal to skate to his left and bury the puck past Raycroft. Karma 3, Leafs 0. Knockout.
The rest of the game was great. The Pens jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the middle of the second period, but the Gill / Armstrong funny business seemed to turn the tide, and the Leafs rattled off four goals unanswered to take a 4-3 lead early in the third period. The Pens tied it and the Leafs went back ahead with about 8 minutes left. Then Talbot tied it again at 5 with a great shot high over the far side on Raycroft.
Once they tied it in the third, I was thinking "Just get to OT and earn a point." They did that. In OT, there were several chances for each team, and then the penalties, which were more or less offsetting. Then Staal scored his third of the game (his first hat trick) to win it in OT. Great goal, great game.
- Fleury let in a few tonight that weren't quite soft, but also weren't up to his usual standard.
- The penalty kill did it's job, helping the Leafs to go 0-4. It's only the third time this season the Pens have blanked an opponent on the road.
- Pens are tied for 4th in the conference with Ottawa, 7 points behind New Jersey in the Atlantic.
- Pens are now the second highest scoring team in the NHL in goals per game, behind only Buffalo.
Next up: vs Chicago on Wednesday. Nice little break - they better enjoy it, because they have 4 games in 6 days and then things REALLY get busy in March.