It started with a couple of after-the-whistle hacks on Ilya Bryzgalovs glove by The Most Despised Hockey Player in Philadelphia: Sidney Crosby.
When all was said and done, four minor penalties, four five-minute majors and two game misconducts had been handed out. Oh, and the two teams superstars Crosby and Claude Giroux had engaged in a fight of their own.
And that was just 12:02 into the first period.
The first two games of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins were intense and exciting in their own way, but neither had anything like what occurred in Sunday afternoons 8-4 Game 3 victory (see story).
I thought it was great, coach Peter Laviolette said. In the end, thats really playoff hockey, isnt it? A couple of the best players dropping the gloves and going at it? Would I rather have him keep the gloves on? Sure. But fighting Sidney Crosby in the playoffs, thats the series. In the end, thats probably what its about.
Certainly, the Flyers were displeased when Crosby took liberties with their goaltender after Bryzgalov had swiped the puck and covered it. But, for the most part, the players were ready to line up for a faceoff. It was only when Crosby went a step farther that any semblance of respect between the two teams completely dissipated.
Jakub Voracek had lost a glove during the scuffle that followed Crosbys attempt on net. As the Flyers winger went to retrieve it, Crosby casually, subtly, flipped the glove with his stick just out of Voraceks reach.
It was all that was necessary to set off the melee that followed. It was like the match that set fire to tinder that had been waiting since the series kicked off.
You know what? We dont like each other, Crosby said. Was I going to sit there and pick up his glove for him? What was I supposed to do?
Kimmo Timonen, for one, likely thought he could have skated away. Having taken issue with what hed witnessed, Timonen went over to have a word with Crosby who, in turn, wrangled him. The two pushed and shoved until Giroux interfered. By then, the referees had all but dropped the reins on the game.
We needed Kimmo on the ice, so I was just trying to get in there, Giroux said. We just ended it by going. It was more like a wrestling match, but thats part of hockey.
If you thought two wild come-from-behind victories in Pittburgh were exciting, the scuffle between two of the worlds biggest hockey talents was a whole other level. The Wells Fargo Center simply erupted. Crosby? Giroux? Fighting each other?
Entertaining, Danny Briere said. At the same time, its not something that you like seeing too often. But at least its a good tradeoff the two best players on each team.
The hatred between the two teams was apparent well before the first puck dropped Sunday afternoon. And it hadnt cleared either teams system simply because Crosby and Giroux got into a shoving match.
As the two centermen tangoed, so too did Kris Letang and Timonen. It may have been the undercard to Crosby and Girouxs contest, but it resulted in the higher punishment: Both players received misconducts and were ejected from the game. The official reason why? Rule 46.7: Fighting after the original altercation.
The loss was big for the Flyers, but arguably worse for the Penguins and that showed in the final score.
In that first-period fracas alone, 44 penalty minutes were awarded. By the time the period was over, 72 had been handed out. At the final horn, 158 penalty minutes had been assessed to the two teams.
The play on the ice so quickly devolved into a mess of grabbing, shoving, fighting and taunting in that first period brawl that it set the tone for the rest of the game. When all the penalties were settled and the time came to announce all the calls that had been made, public address announcer Lou Nolan had to take a deep breath and begin, The penalties
And it was only the first of four times Sunday afternoon Nolan had to recite the long list of the penalized as if he were reading a grocery store checklist.
We talked about it at the start of the series, Max Talbot said. I remember Scotty Hartnell talking about a bloodbath, and stuff like that. But I didnt want to believe that. Tonight was definitely a little bit of everything.