TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning left Madison Square Garden victorious Thursday night after beating the New York Rangers 3-1 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final.
But the victory was short-lived for one unlucky Lightning fan who was knocked out cold when an angry Rangers fan leaving the famed New York City arena suddenly turned and sucker punched him in the face.
A bystander captured the scary moment in a now-viral Twitter video that’s been viewed more than 3.7 million times as of midday Friday. It was posted just before midnight.
The video shows the Lightning fan, clad in his Tampa Bay jersey, falling backward on the marble lobby floor after the man walking in front of him suddenly turns and lands a single punch to his face. A crowd of stunned fans stop in their tracks as the scene unfolds, then rush to help the man, who appears unconscious as he lies motionless on the floor.
Some can be heard yelling for medical attention while others rush to point security toward the man responsible as he tries to exit the arena, located at 2 Pennsylvania Plaza in New York City. Others are heard asking, “Is he dead? He’s definitely dead.”
According to a statement from the deputy commissioner of public information for the New York Police Department, officers identified the assailant as James Anastasio, 29, of Staten Island. The Lightning fan has not been named by police, but the agency’s spokesperson said Friday that he appeared to have only minor injuries and refused further medical attention at the scene.
Police said they believe Anastasio and the Lightning fan had another altercation earlier that evening, despite witness reports at the scene that the punch appeared to be unprovoked.
After landing the knock-out blow to the Lightning fan around 10:50 p.m., police said Anastasio tried to blend into the crowd exiting the stadium before breaking out into a run when witnesses came after him. When a 37-year-old man tried to grab Anastasio to stop him from leaving, he got a punch in the face, too, police said.
That man also refused further medical attention at the arena, though he did suffer pain and bruising, police said.
It was unclear Friday afternoon what role security at the arena played in Anastasio’s capture. However, the venue released a statement Friday afternoon calling the attack an “abhorrent assault” and assuring that Anastasio will be “banned from The Garden and all other MSG venues for life.” Staff at the arena were quick to ensure that both men received appropriate medical care, and the venue’s “guest services team” has been tasked with following up to provide continued support, the statement said.
“All guests — no matter what team they support — should feel safe and respected in The Garden,” the statement said. “This has and always will be our policy.”
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Anastasio was arrested and charged with two counts of assault, two counts of disorderly conduct and two counts of harassment, according to the Police Department.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing, police said.
After beating the Rangers on Thursday, the defending Stanley Cup champions now lead the conference final 3-2. The Lightning will meet the Rangers again on home turf Saturday at Amalie Arena.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.