Things got out of hand in a hurry at the end of Saturday’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights.
As the Golden Knights led 3-2 late in the third period, the Panthers mounted one furious final attack while on the power play in hopes of extending the game into overtime, creating a 6-on-4 advantage with their net empty. And it nearly worked, as it did in Game 3.
But thanks to a few clutch saves from goaltender Adin Hill, Florida’s efforts were turned aside as the final seconds drained off the clock, with Vegas taking a 3-1 series lead, inching one step closer to securing the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup.
There was little time for celebration, though, as Brandon Montour skated down from the blue line before dishing out a late hit on fellow defenceman Brayden McNabb, igniting an on-ice brawl between the 11 skaters, including Hill.
MAJOR FIREWORKS TO END GAME 4 🎆 pic.twitter.com/2wenZQW3mu
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) June 11, 2023
A mob quickly formed around Vegas’ net, with numerous players wrestling each other on the ice. But as chaos ensued, fans expressed their displeasure with the final score by littering the ice at FLA Live Arena with plastic rats, garbage and other harmful items, escalating the situation further.
That continued for several minutes until referees regained control and ushered everyone off the ice, defusing the heated conflict between both clubs.
In the end, Montour received a two-minute penalty and a 10-minute misconduct for his unnecessary check on McNabb. Hill also received a two-minute misconduct for throwing punches at Sam Reinhart.
Matthew Tkachuk, meanwhile, was awarded three separate infractions for his post-whistle actions: two minutes for slashing Alex Pietrangelo, another two for unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct.
With 50 penalty minutes in the series, Tkachuk sits just four away from passing Philadelphia’s Mel Bridgman (53 PIMs in 1980) for the most in a Stanley Cup Final.
Dealing with injuries and frustration in a series his #FlaPanthers now trail 3-1, Matthew Tkachuk has racked up the PIMs. Mostly accumulating his total through 4 ten-minute misconducts, he now sits just 4 away from setting a #StanleyCup Final series "sin bin" record on this list pic.twitter.com/7xvkgCfIRj
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) June 11, 2023
Cooler heads ultimately prevailed, although Panthers fans haven’t shied away from covering the ice with rats throughout these 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, continuing a tradition that has been kept alive for decades.
The origin began on Oct. 8, 1995, when former Panthers captain Scott Mellanby killed a rat — not a plastic one — inside the club’s dressing room before their game versus the Calgary Flames. He then scored two goals that night, with goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck labelling it as a "Rat Trick."
A fan threw a plastic rate onto the ice during Florida’s next game, prompting a few more to follow suit the following night. Not long after, the home crowd started throwing rodents onto the ice after every Panthers goal, which continued leading up to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final berth in 1996.
The team's latest run, however, could end on Tuesday as the series shifts back to Vegas for a pivotal Game 5.