The final 20 seconds of the second period Saturday afternoon at TD Garden was where it all started. After Mike Ribeiro dropped the gloves against noted pest Brad Marchand, in what was the veteran forward’s first career NHL fight, Matt Hendricks fought Bruins top-line winger Nathan Horton.
“I was yelling at him. Like, three times I yelled at him and he didn’t look at me,” Horton said. “And then, he just sprinted at me. He kind of caught me with my gloves there. Or, maybe he did hear me. I just didn’t think he did because he wasn’t looking at me.”
It was a brief scrap but as the two players separated the Bruins true enforcers began jawing at Hendricks from the bench. They didn’t take kindly to him fighting one of their top players and they wanted retribution.
So with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation Bruins heavyweight Shawn Thornton shoved Hendricks immediately after a faceoff and pursued him all around the ice, challenging the Capitals forward to fight. Adam McQuaid joined in, trapping Hendricks between the two enforcers with no option but to fight.
Hendricks opted for McQuaid, who is more in his weight class.
“I saw Thorty challenging him,” McQuaid said. “I was there as well, so he looked like he didn’t want to go with Thorty so I gave him a second option, and I guess he didn’t want Thorty, so he made a smart decision going to me.”
Hendricks wound up with a gash on his right hand from the fracas that required him to head to the dressing room for medical treatment rather than sit out his five-minute major in the penalty box.
It’s unclear how significant the damage to Hendricks was. Coach Adam Oates didn’t provide an update after the game and Hendricks wasn’t made available to reporters. For Boston, it was missioned accomplished, but the Capitals took exception to the way their foes cornered Hendricks.
“I think that’s wrong. That’s wrong,” Oates said. “He clearly didn’t want to fight Thornton and the other guy came over and makes it for a very difficult situation. I think the referees could’ve probably handled it a little quicker.”
Said defenseman Karl Alzner: “That’s the biggest joke I’ve ever seen, in my opinion. The fact that they let those guys corner a guy like that. If we would’ve done that to [Tyler] Seguin, you know, Ersky and Hendy? You think they would’ve let that happen? It’s questionable, very questionable.”
That the Bruins wouldn’t let something like that happen is an interesting point because when Hendricks was being harassed by Thornton and McQuaid, none of his teammates came to his aid.
“When you got a tough team, everybody’s got each other’s back. I think that was a big game for us in that way and getting everybody going,” Horton said. “We stick together. It doesn’t matter who it is. Everybody has each other’s back.”