November 26, 2008
With four goals scored, the second period of the Atlanta Thrashers' 6-3 victory at the Toronto Maple Leafs was already pretty interesting. It became downright memorable when Ilya Kovalchuk sparked a spontaneous rivalry with Ian White of the Leafs after this shot to the head:
Around the 1:20 mark of the clip, we see the catalyst for this incident: Kovalchuk taking a check from White while in a prone position, getting the number of that freight train and then returning the favor on the other side of the ice. Then, as they skated up ice, Kovalchuk dropped his stick, turned around and popped White in the head with both gloves -- earning two minutes for roughing and two for charging.
White called those penalty minutes "selfish" after the game, as the two players pled their cases through the media. But that was after White finally got his hands on Kovalchuk later in the period and took an extra penalty of his own.
From the Atlanta Journal Constitution, here's how the players saw the initial incident:
White's version: "I finished my check off. Clean hit. And then he took a run at me on the far blue [line]. So I followed him up the ice, I was saying something to him, and he stopped, and I wasn't expecting that, obviously. I was protecting myself. That's the ugly part of the game. He'll get what's coming to him."
Responded Kovalchuk: "Whatever he wants to say. The score on the board, we win. We get two points [in the standings]. We've got three games [left] against them, so if he's got something he wants to say, I'm always ready to answer."
White tried to earn some revenge later in the period, getting in a solid hit on Kovalchuk before challenging him to a fight:
Both players received five for fighting; White was given an extra two for boarding, which was a bad call -- but he deserved two for instigating anyway, so a minor penalty's a minor penalty in this case.
Pretty pathetic how quickly the zebras stepped in to end this one. Kovalchuk's a big boy, he can handle himself. No. 89 is linesman Steve Miller; remember the name for when he gets promoted by the NHL for overprotection of a star player.
Meanwhile, White will clearly look forward to Dec. 22 when the Leafs visit Atlanta; at least based on his tough talk after the game:
"If he wants to do that, he's going to play with a target on his back."