UPDATE (11:15 am): TSN's Darren Dreger reports that there is an ongoing NHL investigation into last night's altercation that is described below. Dreger says lack of video evidence may limit penalties to just fines or warnings.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Last night at the St. Pete Times Forum, Scott Hartnell was at the center of one of the most bizarre fights you will see in today's NHL.
The way Hartnell and Lightning forward Ryan Malone were swinging their sticks at each other, you would have thought one was Dr. Hook from "Slap Shot" and the other was jousting like Racki from the Thunder Bay Bombers in "Youngblood." It was old fashioned, quick-moving, and puzzling, all at the same time.
The end result was a 10-minute misconduct for each player, with possible supplementary discipline to come today.
It all started during a television timeout with 7:28 to play in the second period. As Hartnell describes it, he was standing at the face-off circle waiting for play to resume when the melee started.
"I was there at the TV timeout, on the left wing, and I was right in front of the bench. Their coach [Guy Boucher] looked up and started yapping at me," Hartnell told the Daily News. "I was just sitting there, not doing anything. Then, two guys started slashing me from the bench. I just kind of pushed their sticks out of the way. I ended up getting 10 minutes for really nothing. I've never seen a coach start yelling at an opposing player from the bench for just standing there."
Hartnell said he didn't know what Boucher was saying because he could not understand him."
French television station RDS reporter Renaud Lavoie, in town ahead of the Canadiens on Thursday, tweeted that Boucher was "upset that Hartnell was listening to what he was telling his players during the TV timeout."
A late camera angle on the Tampa Bay feed shows Hartnell swinging his stick dangerous close to a player's face near the Lightning bench. No contact was made. At that point, Malone jumped over the boards - to become the sixth man on the ice - and pushing and shoving ensued. No definitive video was available on YouTube or on GameCenter Live due to 48-hour local blackout restrictions.
Hartnell said former teammate Steve Downie was the "first one to spear me."
"I was just standing there on that one dot," Hartnell said. "And sticks start flying at me and he starts lipping off. I don't know how I got 10 minutes out of the deal."
Malone told the Tampa Tribune that Hartnell was "standing too close to the bench, or something."
Hartnell, who scored the Flyers' only goal of the game for his 33rd point of the season, said he was surprised by Malone's actions, since the two are friends and have spent time in the summers training together. Malone and Hartnell have been connected in strange plays over the years, as Hartnell once threw a glove at Malone on a breakaway which resulted in a subsequent penalty shot.
"He is a good dude and we have fun," Hartnell said. "But I wasn't really doing anything. And I didn't initiate anything. I was just standing there."
Both players could face a fine of up to $2,500 or a suspension. Malone faces the most serious penalty for entering an altercation from the bench, which usually results in an automatic suspension. The NHL routinely reviews all plays which are "not the norm."
"It reminded me of Slap Shot or Youngblood, or something," Malone told the Tribune. "I didn't know what was going on."
SHOTS TELL STORY? If the shot totals didn't tell the story of the Flyers' dominance over the Lightning on Tuesday, then the folks at PowerScoutHockey.com have explained it succinctly with this chart. According to them, the Flyers dominated 88% of the game, giving Tampa Bay the biggest "steal" of the night.
The Flyers outshot Tampa Bay, 29-8, in the first and third periods, but were outworked, 8-3, in the second period. The Flyers posted as many shots on goal (32) as the Lightning attempted at Ilya Bryzgalov (16 on net, 7 blocked, 9 missed).
"It doesn't really matter if you outplay them or not," Jaromir Jagr said. "The goal is to score more goals to win the hockey game. When they had the lead, they could do anything they want."
ANOTHER DONNYBROOK: Just seconds before Hartnell got into it in front of the Tampa Bay bench, teammate Wayne Simmonds dropped Eric Brewer with a solid uppercut in a second period fight.
It was probably the Flyers' top fight of the season and definitely one of the most decisive. There was no question as to the winner, when Simmonds finally connected with a blow that fell Brewer to the ice. Brewer was bleeding, wobbling, and needed to be helped off the ice by a team trainer for repairs.
Video of the fight is below, courtesy of HockeyFights.com.
Simmonds, 2 inches smaller and 60 pounds lighter than Brewer, actually staggered for a bit after taking an early punch. As the two twirled around the ice, Simmonds was swinging for the fences.
Somehow, Brewer managed to return to the game. After looking the way he did leaving the ice, it's a miracle Brewer didn't end up sustaining a concussion.