Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Brawl boosts intensity of Lightning-Red Wings series (w/video)

TAMPA — After a chippy first game, Lightning coach Jon Cooper expected both teams to settle down as they settled into the first round of the playoffs.

"Clearly wrong," Cooper said.

That was obvious Friday night when 10 players were involved in a brawl with 53.2 seconds left in Tampa Bay's 5-2 victory over the Red Wings. The fight featured a six-player pileup in front of the Lightning net, six 10-minute misconduct penalties, a game misconduct and nine stitches on the face of Tampa Bay forward Mike Blunden.

More than 20 minutes after the final punch, Lightning players were still trying to sort it out.

"I was kind of in the mix of it," wing Ryan Callahan said. "I don't really know what happened."

The mayhem started after the Lightning scored three goals in an 11-minute span to turn a tie game into a 2-0 series lead. In the final minute, Brad Richards — the Red Wings forward, former Lightning star and former Lady Byng Trophy winner for sportsmanship — whacked his stick at defenseman Andrej Sustr's legs.

"He sent a message, even to myself, that he isn't taking no for an answer," Detroit forward Dylan Larkin said. "… We don't like each other very much. We sent a message that we're here to battle."

That battle was just beginning. Sustr and Richards started to fight. Everyone else flew in. Tampa Bay defenseman Nikita Nesterov hit Richards on the ice. Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader pummeled Blunden, whose visor split open his face. Abdelkader received a game misconduct penalty.

"I think that's not smart for their guy," said forward Cedric Paquette, one of three Tampa Bay players given 10-minute misconducts. "When there's a guy lying on the ice like that, you respect the opponent. I don't think he did."

Blunden shrugged it off as just part of the postseason and a fun talking point for fans.

"It's hockey," Blunden said. "We're in a battle. We're battling out there. Just part of the game."

And clearly part of this series.

Both teams were feisty in Game 1, but the intensity far exceeded chippiness Friday. When Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall leveled Ondrej Palat with a hit to the head midway through the second period, Callahan flew at Kronwall to start a fight that sent Drouin, Victor Hedman and Detroit's Riley Sheahan to the penalty box.

After two fierce games, both teams expect Friday's final minute to carry over to Detroit.

"It's going to be an intense game, like it was (Friday) or two nights ago," Paquette said. "I don't expect any different."

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected]. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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