By Mike Watson, Sports Talk Philly staff writer
March 5, 2004
In this late winter matchup, just four words are needed to describe the powder keg that exploded late in the third period.
Flyers. Senators. Fight Club.
In the third period of this lopsided 5-3 victory by the Flyers on home ice, the Flyers were at some point, going to get back at Martin Havlat of the Ottawa Senators. A week prior, Havlat took a swing with his stick at the Flyers’ Mark Recchi. Tensions were high throughout the game and with the game decided on the scoreboard, things went bonkers.
With the score 5-2 and just 1:45 left in the third, the first altercation that started it all was a heavyweight tilt between Rob Ray of Ottawa and Donald Brashear of the Flyers. During the skirmish, a debilitating right cross by Brashear busted up Ray near the end of the tilt. I’ll score it a TKO for Brashear and the stitches were just icing on the cake.
Then, out of nowhere and without provocation, the classless Senators showed their true character as defenseman Brian Pothier and winger Todd Simpson both jumped Brashear and fired punches over and around the linesman well after Ray skated to the locker room to get patched up.
That initiated a line brawl, which included goalie Robert Esche taking on Senators’ goalie Patrick Lalime, who skated down to join in. Branko Radivojevic of the Flyers took on Shaun van Allen of the Senators as sticks, gloves and helmets littered the ice.
For the 19,539 in attendance on Broad Street, cheers rained down with this brand of “Old Time Hockey,” but this was just the beginning.
The next spat came a whole three seconds later when Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil picked on the Flyers’ Radovan Somik and another line brawl started. Zdeno Chara took on the Flyers’ Mattias Timander and a young Mike Fisher took on the Flyers’ Michal Handzus.
With half of the rosters either in the penalty box or in the locker room, things settled down…for all of 20 seconds.
Recchi gave a good check to Wade Redden along the boards after a dump in and it all started once again. John LeClair ended up in a bear hug with Redden, while Recchi took on a challenge from Bryan Smolinski at center ice and put a pretty good hurting on him to the delight and deafening cheers from the Flyers faithful.
As the late, great pitchman Billy Mays would say…“But wait, there’s more!”
As both benches now had more coaches on it than players, the Flyers’ Patrick Sharp and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza lined up for the faceoff, the last thing one would think was that these two would go at it. Two budding, talented goal scorers should leave that stuff to the other guys, right? Not tonight.
At the drop of the puck, Spezza charged at Sharp and Sharp not only expected it, but prepared himself by grabbing the jersey on Spezza's right arm. The right hands from Spezza didn’t land, but the first three from Sharp tattooed Spezza, sending him fluttering to the ice as a fourth right hand from Sharp approached the left side of his jaw. Two more shots by Sharp landed before the linesmen were able to gain the upper hand and eventually separate them. It was probably the best fight since Brashear's, 32 game seconds ago, but 20 or so minutes later.
In total, 419 penalty minutes were assessed in the game, setting a new NHL record. The Flyers had 213 penalty minutes, which is also an NHL record.
Other than a late meaningless goal at 19:47 by Peter Bondra of the Senators, Ottawa left Philadelphia beaten both on the scoreboard and in the fisticuffs department in resounding fashion. The Flyers increased their lead to four points ahead of Ottawa as they looked for home ice advantage in the upcoming playoffs.
You can see these fights in a three part series, thanks to the technology of YouTube