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March 20, 2019
NHL News and Notes
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
THREE QUICK ONES
It was quite the entertaining game. The Penguins blew things open early in the third period, scoring three goals in 48 seconds to take a 5-1 lead. Tyler Kennedy, who oddly enough has a secretary named Lincoln, got things rolling with a Mario Lemieux goal, barging around Tomas Kaberle to get his own rebound and undress Scott Clemmensen with a backhand deke before falling to the ice. Had Sidney Crosby scored the goal, there would already be monuments erected in its honor.
Not to be outdone, Kid Crosby made his own magic 37 seconds later, weaving through three Maple Leafs and slipping a sick backhand pass down low to Evgeni Malkin, who chipped a shot over a sprawling Clemmensen to break Toronto's back.
The goal was beautiful from start to finish. Kris Letang got things rolling with a deft pass off the boards in the defensive zone to Malkin. He wisely moved it to Sid, and the two phenoms raced back three-on-two against Nik Antropov, Ian White, and Hal Gill. Mismatch. Crosby mesmerized all three defenders, letting Malkin skate unmarked to the cage. Sid found him as only Sid can, and Geno finished like a champ. It was a breathtaking play, and it mulched the Leafs for good.
A mere 11 seconds after Malkin scored, Petr Sykora removed all doubt, taking advantage of a bad bounce to make it 5-1. Jarkko Ruutu flipped a puck high into the Toronto zone, but it was one of those crazy haunted pucks. It hit the ice and hopped backwards, eluding the glove of Andy Wozniewski and giving Sykora a free lane to the net. Clemmensen made the first save, but Sykora popped home the rebound for his first red light in eight games.
While the offensive outburst fell short of the NHL record for fastest three goals, the Maple Leafs did establish a new mark for most humiliating defensive mistakes in 48 seconds. Well done. They had worse coverage than ESPN.
"It's good," said Malkin. "I'm happy. First hat trick. Unbelievable."
Sadly, angry villagers with torches showed up and chased Malkin from the arena. Fire bad.
But just seconds before Malkin bagged his trick, dropping to one knee to slap a puck through Clemmensen from the top of the right circle, he made a pass that certainly deserves mentioning. He was out high in the right circle facing the net when Crosby, who was down low near the right post, sent a pass to him. Instead of stopping the puck, Malkin a left-handed shot, put his stick between his legs and merely redirected the pass back to Sergei Gonchar at the left point. It was ridiculous.
I still don't think people realize just how good Malkin is going to be. He's a natural center. He needs to carry the puck. And his first instinct is to always set up his linemates. So bouncing back and forth to wing hasn't been an easy adjustment, only further complicated by his reluctance to speak English. But he seems to be learning what it takes to play wing in the NHL. His second goal was a perfect example, as he moved the puck to Crosby in neutral ice and then busted to the net.
If Malkin can simplify his game and play a similar style as Ilya Kovalchuk and his boy Alexander Ovechkin, meaning he shoots the puck whenever it's on his stick, he could still get 50 this season. Crosby will see to that. But I doubt he'll be able to make the change without some more growing pains. He'll need 22 goals in his final 42 games to reach 40 goals. That would be a more realistic target.
By now, I'm sure most LCS Hockey readers know we used to love ourselves some Tucker. We even had a special tribute issue in his honor. But that was back when he had lightning bolts on his pants. Those days are solid gone. And so's my love for Tucker.
I had a falling out with Darcy last season when he wouldn't fight Chris Neil. If you recall, Tucker jumped Patrick Eaves, a guy who's never fought in his life, and administered a beating. On the opening faceoff of the next game, Neil challenged Tucker, and Darcy wouldn't drop the gloves. I won't rehash everything, since you can read my full thoughts on the incident here, but let's just say Darcy is no longer my brother.
Fast forward to last night's Penguin game. Erik Christensen and Matt Stajan were mixing it up a bit. Stajan got whistled for hooking. Tucker took it upon himself to skate over and attempt to instigate something with Christensen, because, as we all know, Christensen is very tough. Um, not really. Mr. Whipple won't even let people squeeze him.
Anyway, Ruutu didn't like Tucker trying to intimidate his teammate. The next time they were on the ice together, Ruutu got Tucker to drop the gloves. I guess Tucker bought into all the Canadian press that says Ruutu never fights. Needless to say, he was misinformed.
Ruutu can throw. Just ask Tucker. The fight was a classic. Give Darcy credit, he was in there slugging away. It was a spirited go from the start, with both men unleashing wicked right hands. They weren't scared to trade. It was caveman stuff. Ruutu eventually took command, pounding Tucker into submission. Darcy emerged beaten and bloodied. He wasn't heard from again. Ruutu was credited with landing 25 of 32 punches. Tucker reportedly connected on 10 of 25.
See, this is more evidence Tucker is no longer Tucker. Back in the day, he would have jumped out of the penalty box and challenged Ruutu to a rematch. If Ruutu wouldn't go, Tucker would have blitzed the Penguin bench and gone all Clockwork Orange on 'em. He was insane. And I liked it.
But when Ruutu was tattooing Darcy's skull, I couldn't help but cheer. Darcy, I hardly knew ye. Memories, misty water-colored memories, of the way we were?
Rick DiPietro could be in trouble with the NHL fashion police. The Islanders netminder played the first period of last night's game against the Florida Panthers wearing brand new white Itech pads. But contrary to what DiPietro believed, the league had not yet approved the equipment, meaning the star goalie could be subject to a two-game suspension.
When he was told between periods that the pads weren't approved, DiPietro switched back to his customary blue-and-orange pads for the remainder of the game, a 4-3 overtime loss. DiPietro stopped all 12 shots he faced in the white pads. In case you're wondering, the pads in question were measured, and everything checked out just fine.
But this would be the NHL at its best. They'll probably give DiPietro a two-game suspension for wearing perfectly legal equipment for 20 minutes, which would be the exact same punishment Randy Jones received for nearly ending Patrice Bergeron's career.
That said, I think DiPietro should be suspended for getting rid of the old brown pads he had a couple years ago. Those were swank.
Chicago dodged a bullet when it was learned Jonathan Toews won't need surgery on his left knee. The 19-year-old center, who's collected 15 goals and 32 points in 36 games, will be out at least three to four weeks with what's being called a sprained MCL. No word yet on when Martin Havlat will return from his ongoing bout with chronic fragility.