They don’t call them the Broad Street Bullies for nothing.
Immediately after Joel Ward scored his third goal of the night for his first career hat trick and put the Capitals up 7-0, fight night broke out at Wells Fargo Center. Four sets of players, including goaltenders Braden Holtby and Ray Emery, paired off in a mammoth third-period fracas.
Off the faceoff, Philadelphia winger Wayne Simmonds dropped the gloves with gritty rookie forward Tom Wilson for a bout that drew the attention of all the players on the ice. But as that scrap unfolded Emery raced from his crease down the ice to challenge Holtby, who clearly wanted to avoid the altercation but had no option when his counterpart lunged at him.
“He didn’t want to fight and I basically said, ‘Protect yourself,’” Emery said. “He didn’t really have much of a choice.”
Emery, well known for his skills in the pugilistic arts, tied up Holtby and started throwing relentless punches. The Capitals starter was unable to stay on his feet making it a particularly lopsided affair with Emery landing several punches as he pushed Holtby toward the boards.
Once the rest of the players on the ice realized the goalies were tangled up, rookie forward Michael Latta made his way over in attempt to intervene but is waved away by referee Francois St. Laurent. Emery received minor penalties for instigating, leaving the crease, a five minute major for fighting and a game misconduct in addition to allowing four goals on 15 shots, but was named the third star of the game.
“I don’t know what [Emery] was thinking, to be honest,” Ward said. “Definitely haven’t seen one of those but when you’re down by so many in your own building the emotions will kick in a little bit.”
Asked if he expects to hear from the league about the fight, Emery was noncommittal.
“I’m not sure. Like I said, it was a penalty for fighting in hockey,” Emery said, “And I gave him a chance to protect himself.”
Holtby, sporting some bruises on his forehead after the game, declined to offer much or any comment on the incident as did all of the Capitals who were asked. Coach Adam Oates didn’t offer extensive thoughts on what played out in the third period, but did say he was concerned about Holtby’s safety and what the referee could have done in the situation.
“There was a referee there, I’m not sure what his guidelines are in terms of should he help out there because there are other altercations going on,” Oates said. “I really shouldn’t comment on that until we get word from the league.”
In addition to those fights, Alex Urbom squared off with Brayden Schenn and Steve Oleksy with Vincent Lecavalier, who suffered a facial injury that may have included losing a few teeth.
“When you’re getting slapped around like that it’s a response,” Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said. “Do I have an issue with it? Probably not. It’s a response.”
In all, the two teams combined for 31 penalties and 164 penalty minutes in the full contest. Among those other penalties was a fight between Aaron Volpatti and Steve Downie that saw the newest Flyer, just acquired from Colorado on Thursday, suffer a concussion. Downie was taken to a local hospital for evaluation Friday night.
“It happens,” Troy Brouwer said. “It’s Philly.”