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Johnson's Knockout Night

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins are a tough team. There are more than a few players who can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league, including several defenseman and a few forwards.

But goalies?

Check that off the list.

As Brent Johnson closed in on his second shutout of the season, he saw New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro interfere with Matt Cooke beside the net.

The Pittsburgh netminder took exception and challenged DiPietro to fisticuffs.

Watch Johnson & DiPietro scrap
“It’s just something I’ve been looking forward to getting an opportunity to do, and it just happened,” Johnson said. “That was my first time (fighting) in the NHL. I had a couple in the minors and a lot in juniors.”

The goalies took off their masks and gloves before they squared off, and Johnson landed a huge left hook on DiPietro, who fell quickly to the ice.

“Being up 3-0, and then seeing him come out and hit one of our guys, there’s not a better opportunity than that, and I jumped at it,” Johnson said. “I just hoped I had a good showing, and I did.”

The fight not only ignited the soldout CONSOL Energy Center crowd, but it also excited the players, who loudly voiced their support for Johnson from the bench.

“Afterwards, the guys were excited,” Johnson said. “They didn’t know I had that mean streak in me, but it was something I’ve kind of wanted to do for a while.”

The fight was just the cherry on top of an excellent night for Johnson, who stopped 20 shots, leading the Penguins to a 3-0 blanking of the Islanders, giving Pittsburgh its second victory in as many days.

Johnson has only played four games since Dec. 15, but he has only given up four goals in those contests, boasting a .953 save percentage in that span.

He didn’t face many shots in the first two periods, as the Islanders only mustered 12 shots through the first 40 minutes. But they came on strong in the third, throwing eight pucks Johnson’s way, most of which were quality scoring chances, but the netminder turned them aside.

“I felt great in net,” he said. “The (defense) was great, giving up five shots in the first period and seven in the second. The guys were playing very sharp in front of me and I felt comfortable too. “

Johnson flashed the glove on the Islanders a few times in the third period, including a great save on a left-circle blast from Matt Moulson midway through the frame.  He followed that up with a brilliant poke-check as John Tavares was powering through the slot.

“I think when I’m on my best game I tend to challenge a little bit more,” Johnson said. “You don’t want to get too comfortable and too deep in net. I’m not quick like (New York Rangers goalie) Henrik Lundqvist so I need to come out and challenge and put a big body in front.”

His strong play between the pipes continued an impressive stretch for the Penguins against the Islanders.

Last week, Marc-Andre Fleury recorded a shutout against the Islanders in a 1-0 win at CONSOL Energy Center.

The Islanders haven’t scored a goal against the Penguins in almost three full games, dating back to just 34 seconds into the first period of the Penguins’ 2-1 shootout loss on Long Island Dec. 29.

But Johnson’s fight earned him a game misconduct, denying him his second shutout of the season. The Penguins were awarded a team shutout, since Marc-Andre Fleury played the final 17 seconds.

So was it worth it?

“Definitely,” he said.

The Penguins bench greets Johnson as he exits the ice after his fight with the New York Islanders' Rick DiPietro. (Getty Images)
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