Iginla helps Penguins past team he rejected

Iginla helps Penguins past team he rejected
April 20, 2013, 6:00 pm
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BOSTON -- Had the tragic events on Marathon Monday not took place, the main storyline for Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the TD Garden would be Jarome Iginla.

The cards were in his hands. He could choose what team he wanted to be traded to at this year's trade deadline weeks ago.

He chose Boston.

And then he chose Pittsburgh.

You can only play for one team. So when it was all said and done, Iginla was a Penguin, not a Bruin.

Both teams were on Iginla's reported "four-team" list that he gave the Calgary Flames before the trade deadline. As a result, Iginla was scratched from a game on a night in which trade rumors were swirling. Iginla was coming to Boston. At least, those were the rumors.

By the time most went to sleep that night, the trade was confirmed. Iginla was traded to the Bruins. By the time most woke up the next morning, Iginla was traded to the Penguins.

It was the result of the Penguins jumping in at the last moment, and Iginla having obviously ranked the team's on that "four-team" list.

And obviously, the Penguins were No. 1 on it.

"It happened pretty quick," said iginla after Saturday's game at the TD Garden. "In the last week before I got traded -- not really sure when it was going to happen or not -- my agent, Donnie Meehan, was talking with Jay Feaster, I think, throughout the week. I really stayed out of it in the last week, for the most part, until the last day when I got traded, and I heard I had an opportunity to go to both of these teams.

"Like I said, a ton of respect for them, they’ve been a great team for a while, and a top organization. And like I said, I was thrilled to have that. It was tough, as far as, you don’t always want to have to make those choices, but I’m thrilled to be here, and to be a Penguin. It’s been a lot of fun, and every day, you feel more of a part of it, and the guys have been great."

Iginla heard his fair share of boo's on Saturday, as he entered the Garden for the first time as a member of the Penguins, and left with a 3-2 win.

"I wasn’t surprised," said Iginla. "It’s a great sports city, and at the time I was very humbled and flattered that Boston and Pittsburgh, I had an opportunity to go to both teams, both teams were interested in me. I made the choice to come to [Pittsburgh]. I was thrilled with that, but I also have a lot of respect for [Boston]. I’ve only heard great things from the guys that play here. I have some friends on that team. I’ve heard great things about the city, the organization, and those things. I expected that, and it’s not too bad when it’s on the road. On the road, you can live with that. At home, when you’re getting boo'd bad, it’s hard to take."

"They've got a very good team, and I expected a few boos and stuff, and I think that's fair. But it's just trying to come and -- I haven't had a lot of success in this building, actually, over the years. So it was nice to get a win here, for sure."

The boos only got louder after Iginla scored the Penguins' second goal, 4:43 into the third period.

It put Pittsburgh up 2-1, and came on the power play.

Iginla exchanged passes with Jussi Jokinen at the top of the offensive zone, only for Iginla to let a slap shot rip from the middle-slot. The puck stayed low and beat Rask five-hole, thanks to a Chris Kunitz screen out front.

"It was five-hole, I guess, so it’s my bad, "said Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. "No question about that. So, it's not too often I cost [our team] a game. Today I did. That’s just how it is sometimes."

The Penguins went on to take a 3-1 lead a few minutes later, and it looked as if Iginla's goal would turn out to to be the game-winner, up until Tyler Seguin scored a somewhat meaningless goal with 2.6 seconds remaining.

Either way, Iginla made his impact felt, on a day in which the Penguins were without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal.

But Iginla also made his mark by dropping the mitts, as he and Nathan Horton threw off the buckets and squared off at center ice late in the first period.

It was a quick fight, as Horton hit the ice first. Horton went right off the ice and never returned to the game with an apparent injury, which Bruins coach Claude Julien said was still being evaluated immediately after the game.

"It was just kind of a physical, intense start," said Iginla. "They were ready to play. We were ready, but they had a lot of intensity. Glass and McQuaid had a great fight. And Horton, he's a tough competitor. It's just one of those things, you just kind of, we're all kind of battling out there and jawing. It was over pretty quick. I see that he didn't come back. I don't know if it was his shoulder when he fell, or what. He feel down pretty quick. You never want to see that when you're fighting, because those are unfortunately the things that happen in fights. It wasn't a long, personal thing or anything. It just kind of happened."

Given the way he essentially rejected the Bruins for the Penguins, Iginla said he was prepared to be involved in some sort of altercation on Saturday.

"If you're turning it down, it would be a little bit offensive, I guess, to the team. But it's not meant that way. But it’s not meant that way. You play hard, and like I said, they’re a tough group, they play hard, and it was a fun, physical, intense game. I kind of expected that."

He also expected to win, whoever he went at the trade deadline. Well, Iginla went to Pittsburgh. And on Saturday, he did everything he could to help himself prove that he picked to play for the better team.