Blake Wheeler got his retribution on Evgeni Malkin early in the first period Wednesday night. The Winnipeg Jets captain and Pittsburgh Penguins star, who was booed every time he touched the puck inside MTS Centre, squared off immediately following an offensive zone face-off – a draw where they weren’t even lined up across from one another.
The scrap between Wheeler and Malkin was apparently just the undercard. Five seconds after their tilt Chris Thorburn and Tom Sestito, who was recalled Wednesday afternoon and inserted into the lineup for an injured Patric Hornqvist, dropped the mitts.
Wheeler and the Jets were unhappy with the NHL Department of Safety’s decision to not punish Malkin for a hit they thought was dirty during the last meeting between the teams on Feb. 16.
“Why is he hitting me at all?” Wheeler said via the Winnipeg Sun. “It has no impact on the play whatsoever. You know Evgeni Malkin is pretty aware of his surroundings on the ice. He’s one of the top players in the league and I think he knows who has the puck and who doesn’t have the puck.
“If I’m him and I hit a guy like that, it’s a cheap shot and that’s the way I see it.”
The action in the opening five minutes was far from complete, however. After the two bouts, the Jets and Penguins then exchanged goals 25 seconds apart.
But the scoring wasn’t finished. Midway through the first, Nik Ehlers gave the Jets the lead briefly before Malkin scored his 30th of the season to tie the game and put himself an assist away from a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
Dustin Byfuglien then got involved with 3:50 left in the period scoring his 10th to send the Jets into the intermission up 3-2.
Prior to Byfuglien’s goal, Sestito was kicked out of the game after he drilled Toby Enstrom from behind, injuring the Winnipeg defenseman and likely capturing the attention of the DoPS.
Enstrom would not return with an upper-body injury.
Barring these two teams somehow meeting in the Stanley Cup Final, they won’t see one another again until next season, which should give them enough time to chill out.
Maurice says that Enstrom is at the hospital being checked for facial fractures. #NHLJets
— Sara Orlesky (@saraorlesky) March 9, 2017
And no surprise here:
Pittsburgh’s Tom Sestito will have a hearing today for boarding Winnipeg’s Toby Enstrom.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) March 9, 2017
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