You had to know that Sunday's afternoon contest between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers was going to be hotly-contested. The rival Pennsylvania franchises appear to be headed for a first-round matchup for the ages and, undoubtedly, the second-to-last game of the season series was going to see both teams attempting to set the tone for the as-many-as 8 consecutive games that are to follow (they finish the regular-season schedule together).
But there's still the little matter of deciding which team opens the postseason at home, so the stakes were even higher. Sure enough, tensions boiled over in the final five minutes of the Flyers' 6-4 victory. Not long after Brayden Schenn crosschecked Sidney Crosby to the ice from behind, Joe Vitale levelled Danny Briere with an open-ice hit. Since it was Vitale that had also knocked blueliner Nicklas Grossmann out of the game earlier with a knee-on-knee hit, this was more than enough to spark a full-blown melee.
There's a lot here. Wayne Simmonds, fresh from busting his face open to score a goal versus Ottawa on Saturday, dropped the gloves with Derek Engelland. Arron Asham took the opportunity to hit Schenn with a couple of quick punches as well -- no doubt in retaliation for the crosscheck on Crosby -- then went after Zac Rinaldo at the Flyers' bench.
In total, 50 minutes in penalties were handed out at the 18:57 mark of the third period, 4 of which were for the rare "coach on ice" violation.
The action wasn't just limited to the players. At the 0:17 second mark, you'll notice the blade of a stick hitting the ice near the boards. That's courtesy of Flyers' coach Peter Laviolette, who swung a stick at the Penguins bench, breaking it. According to Dan Bylsma, the rest of the stick ended up in the Penguins bench.
For the record, smashing sticks in rage is a Flyers' front office tradition. Paul Holmgren did it in 1991. A torch has been passed.
Afterwards, Laviolette stood up on the boards, shouting at Bylsma, only to be met up there by Penguins' assistant coach Tony Granato instead. One wonders if Laviolette would have ended up joining the broken stick on the Pittsburgh side had his own assistant coach, Craig Berube, failed to hold him back.
(It was a strange sight. Berube, a former enforcer, once punched official Kevin Collins in an attempt to get at Lindy Ruff. You'd think he'd be in favour of some coach-on-coach violence. And, judging from the NHL fight cards of the former players, Granato would have gotten his clock cleaned if Berube had let Laviolette go. Of Granato's 3 career fights, one was with Steve Sullivan. He fought Berube in the 1993 playoffs and didn't even get a fighting major.)
Both Laviolette and Granato were ejected. After the game, Laviolette expressed his frustration with the players Bylsma had on the ice:
Laviolette: "They hadn't used those guys in 12 minutes. It was a completely gutless move by their coach."
— Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) April 1, 2012
And meanwhile, at 6:00, you'll see Scott Hartnell getting into a chirping contest with a Penguins fan dressed as Hulk Hogan. Hartnell won my ever-lasting affection when he mocked Malkamania with Hogan's classic hand-to-ear gesture. If you can't be bothered to scroll back up, here's another look:
With Wrestlemania later Sunday afternoon, it's good to see Hartnell's already dialed in. Hartnell tweeted about the game immediately after it was over:
Okay. I am willing to watch these teams play several more times. The victory brought the Flyers to within one point of the Penguins for 4th place. Could next Saturday's season-ender be a one-gamer for home ice advantage?
Hilariously, all of this happened after the game had bled into NBC's coverage of PGA tour golf. Of course, NBC is used to following compelling programming with much drier fare: Whitney was on Thursday nights for months.
Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney
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