Philadelphia Flyers Fight Pittsburgh Penguins: What Caused the Line Brawl?

Jason SapunkaCorrespondent IIApril 1, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 29: Scott Hartnell #19 of the Philadelphia Flyers has words with Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on December 29, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

"It was a gutless move by their coach. It’s just gutless."

That's what Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette called the Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma for an event that occurred with just over one minute left in what was then a 6-3 game in favor of the visiting Flyers.

The event led to Laviolette standing on the boards of his bench yelling towards the Penguins bench.

The Flyers' Danny Briere was carrying the puck up through the neutral zone when he was hit shoulder-to-shoulder by Pittsburgh's Joe Vitale.

Immediately after the hit, Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds went towards Vitale, as did Brayden Schenn.

Other players on the ice showed up at the area, with Pittsburgh's Arron Asham grabbing Schenn as Philadelphia's Marc-Andre Bourdon was grabbed by Craig Adams.

As Asham threw punches at Schenn, Philadelphia's Pavel Kubina stepped in seemingly trying to separate Asham from the rookie. Asham continued throwing punches at both Flyers, while linesmen attempted to break up the scuffle.

Simmonds paired off with Pittsburgh's Deryk Engelland in what was the longest fight of the line brawl.

After the initial brawl ended, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby was yelling towards the Flyers bench. Shortly after this, Asham appeared to try starting a fight with the Flyers' Zac Rinaldo, who had come on the ice in anticipation of the continuation of play.

These events were the culmination of a few incidents that occurred earlier in the game, which included Crosby and Schenn, plus Braydon Coburn, Jake Voracek and Hart Memorial Trophy candidates Claude Giroux and Evgeni Malkin.

With roughly two minutes to play in the second period, Giroux had the puck in his own zone and turned up-ice by the side boards to his right.

As he turned, Malkin slashed him, causing Giroux to fall down. Giroux was able to move the puck up-ice as he was falling.

Once Giroux was down on the ice, Malkin pushed him in the back then threw a right-handed gloved punch to the back of Giroux's head before skating away.

Laviolette was yelling at the referees for a penalty, according to Pierre McGuire.

Roughly seven minutes into the third period, Crosby delivered a two-handed slash to Coburn that left the defenseman momentarily skating on one leg while bending the other at the knee.

Shortly after, Crosby two-handed slashed Voracek. Crosby's stick broke after the two slashes. NBC showed a replay of the slash on Voracek.

Late in the third period, the Penguins scored a goal that was not initially counted. After the whistle, Crosby was skating back towards his bench.

Schenn was skating behind him and pushed him in the back. Crosby fell down to the ice. A penalty was initially called on Schenn, but then negated once the reviewed goal was counted. Crosby was yelling at Schenn as Simmonds (who was sitting next to Schenn) yelled back at Crosby.

The Penguins were likely frustrated during the timing of these events; after going up 2-0, they gave up five unanswered goals.

This could have led to Malkin's cheap shot on Giroux, Crosby's slashing and Vitale taking a run at Briere.

Laviolette and the Flyers were right to be angry with the Penguins; Crosby should not be complaining about Schenn's push after Crosby broke his stick while slashing Philadelphia players.

Most importantly, Bylsma did not need to put Engelland and Asham on the ice at that time; the players are tied for the team lead with eight fights this season, according to

"Those guys hadn’t played in 12 minutes," said Laviolette.

Vitale (who is tied for the third-most fighting majors on the Penguins) did not need to make that big hit with just over a minute left in a blowout game.

Crosby had an interesting take on the incident: "I’m sure (Laviolette) doesn’t like to see one of their top players getting hit... Maybe he shouldn’t have put him out there."

Does that mean Crosby is free game for big hits at the end of a blowout game?

The teams meet again on Saturday in each team's last game of the regular season. The teams are also currently in fourth and fifth place in the NHL standings and could likely meet each other in the first round of the playoffs.


B/R Featured Columnist Jason Sapunka covers the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers.