Don’t expect the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins to grab Primanti Brothers sandwiches with one another before Saturday’s rematch at PPG Paints Arena. The two sides didn’t end Thursday’s game on the friendliest terms and facing one another for the fourth time this month on Saturday, it’s hard to imagine the bad blood simmering anytime soon
At the center of it all was someone who had been crossed off the Islanders Christmas card list long before Thursday night. Mike Matheson had already been on the Islanders’ radar after he laid a high hit on Johnny Boychuk in the Qualifying Round in last year’s playoffs that essentially led to the end of his playing career.
Matheson had been playing for the Florida Panthers when that incident occurred.
And they were reminded of that on Thursday when Matheson crosschecked Mathew Barzal in the back, sending him headfirst into the boards The Pittsburgh defenseman was assessed a penalty and the Islanders did score on the ensuing power play to cut the deficit to 3-1, but the Islanders weren’t thrilled with the play in the first place.
— Hockey Hound (@HockeyHoundShow) February 19, 2021
“I think guys take notice,” said Brock Nelson, who scored the Islanders’ lone goal in the loss. “It’s a fast game and things are going to happen. You just want to respond in a positive manner and make it hard on him moving forward. Let him know that we didn’t appreciate some plays, but at the same time, we just have to play our game. That’s the bottom line.”
It’s hard to imagine that Matheson and Pittsburgh didn’t get that message by the end of the game. The physicality was there most of the night and only ramped up in the closing minutes of the game with a chance of a comeback out of reach for the Islanders.
Anders Lee took a swipe at Matheson and Matt Martin went after him following a whistle late in the third. Scott Mayfield and Evgeni Malkin got mixed up with one another near the Pittsburgh bench during the last 90 seconds, earning themselves each a game misconduct.
Matt Martin goes after Matheson for his hit on Barzal pic.twitter.com/McNsRZvsyj
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) February 19, 2021
“He’s got a couple of our guys here,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Marty sent a message to him, but yeah it’s going to get testy. We have to play these guys a whole bunch. I think another four times coming up here, so as it gets ramped up it will probably get harder and harder.”
Trotz didn’t have any concerns about Barzal after what he called a “vicious crosscheck.” The Islanders bench boss said he felt Barzal would be fine.
Islanders captain Anders Lee didn’t seem too surprised that the meeting had an extra physical tone to it. Considering the history alone between the two sides no one should be shocked about it
“Those things are going happen, you don’t like to see them,” Lee said. “But you try to take of them at the right time.”
Saturday night will be the fourth time the Islanders play the Penguins this month and it’s a safe bet the two subsequent meetings they have after that won’t be any less chippy.