12 years ago, on Feb. 11, 2011, it was a fight-filled laugher as the New York Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 9-3 at the Nassau Coliseum. For those that were in the building or watched Howie Rose and Butch Goring call the blow-by-blow, it remains one of the most memorable games in that era of Islanders hockey, one devoid of playoff moments.
The teams combined for an incredible 65 penalties that totaled 346 minutes. There were ten ejections, 15 fighting majors, and 20 misconducts, setting records for both teams and leaving few players around to finish the game that wasn't much of a hockey game after the first period.
Things got so heated that a fence between the two dressing rooms was shut during a hallway lockdown. Several months later, in the New York Times, Penguins’ Hall-of-Famer and owner, Mario Lemieux, denounced what happened as a “travesty” and a “sideshow.” He criticized the N.H.L. for what he saw as an insufficient disciplinary response and declared that he would “rethink” whether he wanted to “be a part of” the league.”
The fisticuffs happened in response to goaltender Rick DiPietro suffering broken bones in his face in a rare goalie fight with Brent Johnson when Johnson decked DiPietro with a solid left, sending him to the ice. It knocked him out for 4-6 weeks. In that same game, the Islanders lost forward Blake Comeau to a concussion sustained on a hit from Maxime Talbot. The Penguins forward was a target throughout the eventful evening.
The game remains memorable for the Penguins, too, the SB Nation site Pensburgh, put out a blow-by-blow account of the lead-up, many undercards, and main-event fights on the 10-year anniversary.
"It was a pretty entertaining affair, and we'll take the two points," said Islanders forward John Tavares. "I've never seen anything like that before. It just wouldn't stop. But it just shows that we'll do anything for each other."
As we remember, 12 years later, one of the more remarkable things is which players are still around, playing for their same teams, including Josh Bailey and Matt Martin, who both dropped the gloves that night. The Penguins, fortunately, were without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin that night, but Kris Letang was in the lineup.
The game was also the "highlight" in the Islanders' careers of Michael Haley and Trevor Gillies. Both were called up to do pretty much what they did that evening and forever indoctrinated themselves into Islanders' history. Haley scored a goal to make it 6-0 that night and later went directly after the Pens' goaltender Johnson to avenge his punch of DiPietro.
"He's a great kid," Zenon Konopka said after the game. "We went through training camp with him, and we just fell in love with him right away. He immediately became a part of our family. So, here comes Cousin Mike, and he gives us something to build off."