The Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers faced off on Friday night for what should have been an entirely meaningless game for the Rangers, but the two sides came out fighting and it led to some rough stuff early on in the game.
There were plenty of hits and both sides were called for several penalties as both sides took liberties with the opposition's players, but it was a huge hit at the very end of the first period that really got the tempers on both sides of the ice boiling. In fact that Lightning were so hot that I'm not entirely sure head coach Jon Cooper didn't have to calm his boys down in the locker room to remind them that the playoffs are less than two weeks away at this point.
It all started when newly acquired defenseman Ryan McDoangh delivered a massive hip-check to young Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich along the boards, a hip-check that sent Buchnevich flying through the air. Buchnevich landed hard on the ice after the hit and it was immediately evident that he didn't like the fact that he had just been hip-checked into orbit, and as a result he was out looking for some revenge.
Buchnevich found his target rather quickly after getting back up and that's when he attempted to deliver a knee-on-knee hit to Tampa Bay Lightning star forward Nikita Kucherov. This was clearly a dirty play that had some nasty kind of intent behind it from Buchnevich, and while seeing that kind of play should make every hockey fan upset, it made Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos even angrier.
Stamkos, a superstar forward known for his shot and not for his ability to throw a punch, immediately dropped the gloves and when charging after Buchnevich, but unfortunately for fans hoping for a big scrap it was clear that Buchnevich was simply going to try and hold on for dear life. That's exactly what he did until the National Hockey League officials on the ice came to his rescue.
While I myself would have loved to see Stamkos and Buchnevich go toe to toe, something tells me that the Lightning are rather happy that it wasn't much of a fight.