"I am personally placing a hundred-dollar bounty on the head of Brent Johnson," New York Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano announced during a radio interview this past week, "He's the backup goalie and chief punk on that Pittsburgh Penguins team."
"A bounty?" interviewer Jim Carr asked, noting a certain cinematic sense of deja vu.
"Yeah, a hundred bucks of my own money for the first of my guys who really nails that creep," Capuano responded with gusto.
Capuano figured that would be the end of it for the day, heading home to take a nap before his Islanders faced off against the Penguins later that evening. But, just as he shut his eyes, the ring of his telephone interrupted his rapidly-approaching sleep.
"Yeah?" Capuano groggily answered.
"Jack, it's Killer," recent call-up Micheal "Killer" Haley responded.
"Oh, hey Killer."
"I want that hundred dollars."
"You've gotta earn it, kid."
"My attitude is right," said Haley, just before Capuano hung the phone up.
The response from Haley to Capuano's rallying-bounty was reasonable after all that the Penguins had done to the Islanders on February 2, the last time the two teams met. First, there was Maxime Talbot's totally unacceptable, devastatingly clean hit on Blake Comeau:
And then, there was Johnson, answering Rick DiPietro's challenge to fight with a brutally efficient one-punch knockout. As NHL Center Ice's Mike Johnson saw it:
DiPietro initiated it ... and he acknowledged it, he started it, he got the worst of it.
Comeau was sidelined with a concussion from the clean, legal hit, and DiPietro knocked out for a month with facial fractures and knee-swelling as a result of the one punch he took from the fight he started.
So, naturally, the Penguins had it coming to them. They had to expect something, but they probably didn't expect this during their warm-up skate:
Back in the locker room, Capuano rallied the troops.
"We were all there! We all saw it with our own eyes!" he yelled, "I'm telling you, they jumped us."
"Sure did," Zenon Konopka, Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin all echoed from the bench.
"Gloves off, stick down, no warning. They challenged the Islanders!" continued Capuano.
That was all of the impetus they would need, the Islanders came out invigorated.
Revenge, a dish best served cold, was fittingly delivered on the ice that night. The Islanders were vindicated. WebBard, a writer on the Islanders blog Light House Hockey, poetically recapped the night's events, rightfully absolving the Islanders from all wrong:
Matt Martin's supposed cheap shot on Maxim Talbot (which had Pens announcers screaming about it being Todd Bertuzzi-esque) was hardly a cheap shot. Martin was yapping at Talbot the whole time, with Talbot clearly seeing Martin's gloves dropping. Talbot knew better then to fight Martin.
Right on. Because Talbot clearly saw Martin's gloves dropping at 4:12 of the above video, while he was busy obliviously skating in the opposite direction of Martin. That one is on Talbot who, before the game, should have known that someone would want to sucker-punch him in the neutral zone while the Penguins trailed by six goals.
More from the Bard:
It's pretty funny how Johnson was playing big tough goalie again, until he realized that it was Haley coming at him. Eric Goddard had to come flying off the bench to save him, so there's an automatic ten game suspension for Goddard.
Yes. Johnson was scared beyond all recognition. You can clearly note this in the video at the 10:20 mark. Haley, finished with his first fight, immediately looks down at Johnson's end of the ice. Johnson eventually drops his gloves and helmet so that he has less weight on his body to create wind resistance and prevent his retreat.
When that fails, he has to engage with Haley. Godard, when he enters the fray, immediately tries to separate Johnson from Haley so that he can enter the fight in the goaltender's stead. Johnson, in a moment of insanity, briefly forgets how utterly terrified he is and remains engaged in the fight.
Because Godard left from the bench, he'll automatically be suspended for 10 games and Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma will get one himself. Haley, on the other hand, should get a medal.
There is going to be finger pointing, but I think both teams went tit for tat. For every Isles cheap shot by Gillies (Gillies possibly punching an injured Pen who was down) and Martin there was the Pens sending Grabner and Okposo flying into Johnson.
Clearly, all is "tit for tat." Gillies, feeling justifiably aggrieved by the Penguins' attempts to use the Islanders as a mechanism to injure their own goaltender, felt it necessary to throw haymakers at an obviously-injured, potentially concussed Eric Tangradi.
In an act of class and professionalism, he taunted Tangradi while being tended to the Penguins' trainer at the 7:40 mark.
WebBard then finds the gem of the night, and it definitely wasn't one of the Islanders' nine goals:
Seeing Konopka standing over a downed Talbot was probably one of the best images of the night.
Right. Few will want to remember the three young Islanders who hit the twenty-goal plateau on the night, but all will have warm memories of the time Konopka mounted Talbot. It had to be life as life-affirming and heartwarming for Islanders fans as it was for Konopka, who had an incredible bonding moment over the course of the night with newcomer Haley.
"He's a great kid," tough guy Zenon Konopka said. "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."
Just like a family reunion. And not only that, but the Islanders now really have something to build on!
As the Bard himself added near his conclusion:
If the Islanders could come out and play like this night in and night out, they would be one of the top teams in the east.
Indeed they would.
Just like that one movie... what was it called again?