The Washington Capitals' 7-0 drubbing of the Philadelphia Flyers Friday abruptly devolved into a free-for-all as the latter's frustration ultimately boiled over to the point of no return.
It began after Joel Ward completed his first career hat trick to extend Washington's already commanding lead to 7-0 at 5:23 of the third period. On the ensuing faceoff, Wayne Simmonds flattened Steve Oleksy with a clean hit before turning his attention towards Tom Wilson, inciting the on-ice riot.
While Simmonds and Wilson tussled, Ray Emery left his crease and skated to the opposite end of the ice to challenge Braden Holtby to a fight. Emery, a noted pugilist, lunged at Holtby, who clearly had no interest or intention of reciprocating. Holtby, however, was left with no choice as Emery tied him up, landing several blows to the back of the Capitals goaltender's head as he struggled to maintain his balance.
“He didn’t want to fight and I basically said, ‘Protect yourself,’” Emery said. “He didn’t really have much of a choice.”
Holtby, who was sporting some bruises on his forehead after the game, declined to comment on the incident, but said he was no worse for wear.
Referee Francois St. Laurent originally attempted to get in between Emery and Holtby, but to no avail. Yet when Michael Latta attempted to intervene on Holtby's behalf, St. Laurent waved him off, preventing him from doing so.
Two more bouts -- Steve Oleksy against Vincent Lecavalier and Alexander Urbom against Brayden Scheen -- soon followed. Schenn got the best of Urbom, but Oleksy hammered Lecavalier, who suffered what Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren called a "facial injury" after the game (it is believed that Lecavalier may have lost some teeth).
“When you’re getting slapped around like that it’s a response,” Holmgren said. “Do I have an issue with it? Probably not. It’s a response.”
In all, Washington and Philadelphia combined for 164 penalty minutes Friday, including a second-period fight between Aaron Volpatti and Steve Downie in which the latter was concussed and later transported to University of Pennsylvania Hospital for observation. Both he and Lecavalier will not play in the Flyers' next game Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.
The Capitals elected not to elaborate on the melee, but coach Adam Oates was pleased with how his team responded.
“Quite honestly, for us, I really like the fact that we all stuck together," he said. "Obviously they were a very frustrated team and things happen when that occurs and we stuck together with it.”
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