The Pittsburgh Penguins finally figured out what they hadn’t been doing very well the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals — cheating! Give the Pens credit for taking it to the Red Wings in the the third period (outshooting them 10-3), but there’s no doubt that the home team benefited from a few calls that led to a 4-2 win and a manageable 2-1 series deficit. Max Talbot scored twice, including an empty-netter to put it away in the final minute.
The most egregious no-call of the night came when the Penguins played for 21 seconds with six skaters on the ice — which four on-ice officials somehow failed to notice. Or did they? According to this MLIVE blog entry, Wings analyst Mickey Redmond said that the officials actually saw the Pens with too many men, and then told them to get a guy off the ice instead of calling a penalty. That’s a pretty serious accusation by Redmond, and an inexcusable show of judgment by the officiating crew if true. I know that linesmen will sometimes say something to guy who’s slow to get off the ice during a line change instead of whistling a penalty, but if there are six guys hanging out in the attacking zone (as there were last night), that’s supposed to be called 100% of the time. Soon after, the Wings were whistled for a penalty and Kris Letang scored on the power play to tie the game at 2-2.
(an approximation of the scene in front of Chris Osgood on Tuesday)
More pivotal to the outcome, however, was the questionable call against Jonathan Ericsson in the third period that led to Sergei Gonchar’s game-winning goal, while Pittsburgh’s Hal Gill has been doing basically the same thing over and over again all series long without getting called for it (This Finnish guy will tell you all about it).
Conspiracy theories abound that the league has had enough of the Wings winning and want to get Sidney Crosby in the winner’s circle to further secure his status as the league’s golden boy. It was Gary Bettman’s birthday yesterday, and there’s no doubt he’d like for this series (the highest-rated thus far since 2002) to go the distance. The DETROIT FREE PRESS even noted that Tony Kornheiser suggested on PTI that this is what Bettman would like as a gift:
“And now as a birthday present to himself, Bettman will instruct the referees to make sure Pittsburgh wins the next two games at home and Sidney Crosby gets a hat trick in each.”
If the Penguins can get another win on Thursday, they’ll at least ensure that this guy can “perform” to “Crazy Train” one more time this year:
Referee disputes aside, the Penguins were up to the challenge last night and the Wings have to be kicking themselves for not being able to convert on a 14-4 shot advantage in the second period. That was Detroit’s chance to seize control of the game and get the crowd out of it. And I’m sure Osgood wants the Gonchar goal back, as even though he was screened, he made a lackluster attempt to catch the puck when he did finally get a look at it.
Now, let’s move on to more important things. Like which professional sports team is going to be the first to be decimated by the swine flu.
Carlos Beltran and John Maine have missed some time over the last week with a mysterious stomach virus, leading some to wonder half-jokingly if they’ve been infected with the dreaded H1N1. Well, the half that wasn’t joking should start paying attention. FANHOUSE says a producer for Mets broadcaster SNY, who travels with the team, has been quarantined at a New York hospital with possible swine flu symptoms. The NY DAILY NEWS notes that the Mets assistant GM John Ricco is insisting that the symptoms being felt by Beltran and Maine are different, and that there’s nothing at all to be alarmed about. Ricco then added that he picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
(do I need Tamiflu?)
And now, here’s some links that are more worth your time than reading what US Weekly’s terrible commenters think about Conan O’Brien:
• I bet you’ll be shocked to learn that there were some shenanigans going on in a regional soccer tournament in Brazil. Due to a combination of red cards and injuries, one team was down to six men (the other only had eight left) which isn’t legal. So the ref called the game off and both teams celebrated as if they had won, while their fans brawled in the stands. Apparently the whole thing was set off by noted Brazilian regional soccer bad-boy Ronaldo Artest.
• The possible secret weapon in negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea? How about Michael Jordan. The NEW YORK TIMES says that the reported successor to Kim Jong-il is his youngest son Kim Jong-un (as opposed to one of the many other Kim Jong-suffixes running around out there), who is a big fan of His Airness. That’s mostly because they’ve just finally received VHS footage of the 1994-95 NBA season in North Korea.
(Kim Jong-un just heard about this new band called Silverchair too)
Yeah, I thought it was Eddie Murphy at first too. But it’s way too funny for him to be involved with, which is why it makes much more sense that this is Charlie Murphy, Eddie’s brother and “Chapelle’s Show” stalwart. Murphy’s playing the alter ego to the hilt, even doing an interview in character with Scoop Jackson.
• After a brief respite in 2007 and 2008, the Cubs are Cubbin’ it up again. Last night in Atlanta they yakked up a 5-0 lead in the 8th inning (including a 5-3 lead with 2 outs in the 9th) and lost 6-5 in 12 to the Braves. Cubs starter Randy Wells had a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings, and all he gets is a lousy no-decision. Said closer Kevin Gregg: “The five combined runs we gave up in the eighth and ninth innings was uncalled for.”
• If Randy Johnson can beat the Nationals tonight, he’ll become possibly the last (and perhaps the surliest) MLB pitcher to win 300 games. And he’ll do it by beating the franchise for which he made his debut 21 years ago. They play in a different city now, but still draw 8,000 fans a game…in a brand new stadium. Well done D.C.
• Speaking of the Nats, FEDERAL BASEBALL says they’ve axed pitching coach Randy St. Claire, a holdover from the Montreal days. The Nats are 14-36, and manager Manny Acta is rumored to be next to go. You know it’s getting bad when local TV analyst Rob Dibble can’t resist calling the Nats a “beer league softball team.”
• Washington took down the Women’s College World Series with a 3-2 win over Florida last night. The Huskies played on the road for the entire postseason, and barely escaped elimination more than once during their run. Then they swept two games from a Gator team that lost only three of their other 66 games this year. Just five years ago the Huskies were wrapped up in a drug scandal that resulted in their coach being fired.
• Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Phillies pitching sensation Antonio Bastardo. Enjoy the first time you have a bad start at the Bank, dude.
• I’m glad I’m not the only person who thinks that Jameer Nelson playing in the Finals is an awful idea, even if he is healthy enough. I love Jameer, but he hasn’t played in a game since February, while Rafer Alston has been doing a great job running the Magic in the playoffs. Why mess with that?
• Vicente Padilla isn’t Mark Teixeira’s favorite guy right now. And why did Carlos Zambrano not bother to show up for the Cubs’ flight to Atlanta?