|Date||February 11, 2011|
|Arena||Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum|
|City||Uniondale, New York, United States|
The Penguins–Islanders brawl was a National Hockey League (NHL) regular season game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders that resulted in a record for combined penalty minutes for both teams. The game was played on February 11, 2011 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the home arena of the Islanders. New York won the game by the score 9–3. In all, 65 penalties were assessed, including 15 fighting majors and 21 game misconducts, resulting in a total of 346 minutes.
The high number of physical altercations was attributed to numerous on-ice incidents between the two teams throughout the season, most notably an incident during the prior meeting of the two teams in which Penguins forward Maxime Talbot delivered a hit to Blake Comeau that concussed him. Prior to the rematch, there were hints and indications from the Islanders that there would be retribution for the injury. The game itself featured two separate multi-player brawls, one of which occurred after Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi took an elbow to the head which caused a concussion. The NHL suspended three players for actions occurring in the game and fined the Islanders organization $100,000. After the disciplinary action was announced Penguins owner Mario Lemieux questioned the direction of the league for allowing fighting. Lemieux was highly criticized following his comments, with critics noting that his own team led the entire league in fighting majors.
The previous Pittsburgh Penguins – New York Islanders matchup, which took place nine days prior to the brawl, featured several incidents that contributed to the hostilities between the teams. In the first period of that contest Penguins forward Maxime Talbot delivered a legal body check to the Islanders Blake Comeau. Talbot was not penalized and Comeau played for the remainder of the game but was diagnosed with a concussion two days later. The injury caused Comeau to miss four games, including the rematch with the Penguins.
A second incident occurred later in the game. With just 16.5 seconds left in regulation, Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro shoved Penguins forward Matt Cooke as he skated through the crease. As Cooke fell to the ground a scrum ensued. Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson skated the length of the ice and engaged DiPietro in a fight. Johnson threw a single left hook, knocking the Islanders goaltender to the ice. DiPietro was sidelined for six weeks following the fight due to facial fractures and knee swelling.
The Islanders were "bitter" over what had transpired in the previous game and hinted that there would be retribution when the clubs next met on February 11, 2011. The game began as a penalty filled affair as eight penalties were called in the first period. The Islanders started the physical play early in the game as Micheal Haley was assessed a roughing penalty at the 2:37 mark in the first. Half way through the first period the first fight of the game occurred when Haley fought with Craig Adams. A second fight happened late in the period when the Islanders' Trevor Gillies squared off with Penguins' enforcer Eric Godard with just over two minutes left in the period. At the end of the first New York had scored four goals on Johnson and led 4–0.
Early in the second period, New York scored two goals just 30 seconds apart taking a 6–0 lead. After the sixth goal, Johnson was pulled and as he skated to the tunnel where the back-up goaltender sits he was "showered" with boos from the crowd- largely due to the ramifications of his prior fight with DiPietro. Shortly after Johnson was pulled the first brawl occurred. Due to his hit on Comeau, Talbot was targeted by the Islanders and he was "jumped" from behind by Matt Martin. Martin's attempt to engage Talbot in a fight resulted in three separate fights breaking out. In his first NHL fight the Islanders' Josh Bailey squared off with Pascal Dupuis, while the Penguins' Mike Rupp tangled with Travis Hamonic, and Martin fought with Deryk Engelland. All six players were automatically ejected from the game after each received ten minute game misconduct penalties. Martin received an additional ten minute misconduct and a two minute minor for instigating the altercation. Martin's minor was off set when Engelland was assessed a minor for roughing for his part of the altercation. Three more minors were called during the period, which ended with the Islanders leading the game 8–2.
At the start of the third period, Johnson returned to the game and less than five minutes into the period a second brawl occurred. The melee started when Gillies elbowed Penguins forward Eric Tangradi in the head. After the elbow Tangradi fell to the ice where he was continually punched. When Gillies was separated from Tangradi he was given a five minute major for elbowing, a double minor for roughing, a ten minute misconduct, and a game misconduct. Despite being ejected from the game Gillies continued to taunt the injured Tangradi from the runway to the dressing rooms. Tangradi left the game with an apparent concussion. While that situation was unfolding other incidents were occurring on the ice. Haley fought Talbot and, while that fight was being broken up, Johnson skated from his crease towards his blue line. Haley skated towards Johnson, then both players dropped their gloves and engaged in a fight. As Haley approached, Godard left the bench to join in the fight and protect Johnson. Godard was assessed a double minor for roughing and two game misconduct penalties, Haley received an instigator minor, two fighting majors, a ten minute misconduct, and a game misconduct (the game misconduct being automatic for a third fight in a game), while Johnson was given a major for fighting. Although he was ejected from the game the crowd chanted Haley's name for the rest of the period whenever a scrum ensued. Another of which occurred at the 16:04 mark in the period that witnessed another six misconduct penalties. As the game wound down, there was yet another fight as Joe Vitale battled the Islanders' Andrew MacDonald. The fight happened with just 2:47 remaining in the game but it would not be the last penalty handed out, as just 15 seconds later Ryan Craig was given both a cross-checking minor and a ten minute misconduct. Both teams scored a goal during the third period, making the final a 9–3 Islanders win. After all the ejections, at the end of the game the Penguins had seven eligible players, while the Islanders had nine. Only twelve players from both teams combined did not receive any penalties: Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Goligoski, Nick Johnson, Paul Martin, and Jordan Staal of Pittsburgh; and Bruno Gervais, Michael Grabner, Milan Jurcina, Mikko Koskinen, Radek Martinek, Matt Moulson, and PA Parenteau of New York. In all, 65 penalties were assessed, including 15 fighting major penalties and 21 game misconducts, for a total of 346 minutes. The penalty minute total set team records for both the Penguins and Islanders for combined penalty minutes.
The day after the game, the NHL handed out suspensions and fines for the incidents. New York's Gillies received a nine game suspension and Martin was given four games for their actions, which NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell called "deliberate attempts to injure". The Islanders organization was also fined $100,000 for "failure to control their players". Pittsburgh's Godard was given an automatic 10 game suspension for violating league rules prohibiting players from leaving the bench to join a fight. Although such actions should result in a suspension for the players coach, the NHL elected not to enforce this rule. Tangradi, a recent callup from the WBS Penguins, suffered post-concussion symptoms causing him to miss almost six weeks, which had the additional effect of making Tangradi, at the time of his call-up the leading scorer in the AHL, miss the AHL's clear day (as he could not be reassigned while injured), making Tangradi ineligible to play in the AHL that post season.
Following the announcement of the suspensions, Penguins owner and Hockey Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux questioned the direction of the league. Lemieux released a statement saying "The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed." He further added "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." An alternate view was expressed by Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke who noted that he felt the NHL acted "swiftly, harshly and appropriately". Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic agreed with Burke stating that the NHL took a stand against line brawls and intent to injure opponents.
After making his comments, Lemieux himself was criticized for being hypocritical. The main contention was his lack of speaking out about incidents involving his own players. Both Hockey Night In Canada's Don Cherry and ESPN.com's Scott Burnside noted that Lemieux said nothing when Penguins forward Matt Cooke (who missed the game while serving a suspension for a blindside hit to Fedor Tyutin) delivered a blindside hit to Bruins center Marc Savard which caused a concussion. Burnside further noted that the Penguins led the entire National Hockey League in major penalties, while Cherry commented on other "dirty" hits by Pittsburgh players that Lemieux never spoke out against. Islanders enforcer Zenon Konopka also criticized Lemieux stating "I can't believe he's that far removed from the game that he doesn't realize in the heat of the moment what happens" and also noted that the Islanders would do everything they could to protect each other. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook defended Lemieux, noting that although the issues brought up were "fair criticisms" the hometown reporter also stated that "Lemieux's criticism of the NHL was spot-on." He further pointed out that Lemieux did not complain after no suspensions were handed out after "questionable" hits were delivered to Sidney Crosby and noted that Lemieux respected the "code" when Cooke fought Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton in the Penguins first game against the Bruins following Cooke's hit on Savard.
Below is a table showing players from both teams and the number of penalties and penalties in minutes they received.
|Haley, MichealMicheal Haley||NYI||7||39|
|Gillies, TrevorTrevor Gillies||NYI||6||34|
|Godard, EricEric Godard||PIT||6||31|
|Martin, MattMatt Martin||NYI||4||27|
|Adams, CraigCraig Adams||PIT||3||17|
|Hamonic, TravisTravis Hamonic||NYI||3||17|
|Talbot, MaximeMaxime Talbot||PIT||3||17|
|Okposo, KyleKyle Okposo||NYI||4||16|
|Bailey, JoshJosh Bailey||NYI||2||15|
|Dupuis, PascalPascal Dupuis||PIT||2||15|
|Rupp, MichaelMichael Rupp||PIT||2||15|
|Craig, RyanRyan Craig||PIT||2||12|
|Engelland, DerykDeryk Engelland||PIT||2||12|
|Konopka, ZenonZenon Konopka||NYI||2||12|
|Letang, KristopherKristopher Letang||PIT||2||12|
|Sterling, BrettBrett Sterling||PIT||2||12|
|Hillen, JackJack Hillen||NYI||1||10|
|MacDonald, AndrewAndrew MacDonald||NYI||2||7|
|Vitale, JoeJoe Vitale||PIT||2||7|
|Johnson, BrentBrent Johnson||PIT||1||5|
|Joensuu, JesseJesse Joensuu||NYI||1||2|
|Kennedy, TylerTyler Kennedy||PIT||1||2|
|Michalek, ZbynekZbynek Michalek||PIT||1||2|
|Nielsen, FransFrans Nielsen||NYI||1||2|
|Orpik, BrooksBrooks Orpik||PIT||1||2|
|Tavares, JohnJohn Tavares||NYI||1||2|
|Tangradi, EricEric Tangradi||PIT||1||2|
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- "Islanders' tough guy Konopka responds to Lemieux's comments". TSN. 2011-02-14. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
- Official boxscore at NHL.com