Just as combatants were being separated in the aftermath of a heated brawl, Erik Gudbranson gave Garnet Hathaway another punch and received something he didn’t expect in return.
Hathaway spit on him and was thrown out of a feisty matchup Monday night he and the Washington Capitals won 5-2 against Gudbranson and the Anaheim Ducks.
Hathaway said he regretted the loogie that could spark further punishment from the NHL in the form of a fine or suspension, and the Ducks were spitting mad about the entire incident.
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“That’s about as low as you dig a pit, really,” Gudbranson said. “It’s a bad thing to do. It’s something you just don’t do in a game, and he did it.”
Hathaway was given a match penalty for spitting in the latter stages of the fracas late in the second period. Gudbranson got a 10-minute misconduct, Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie was also ejected for being the third man into a fight and a total of 50 penalty minutes were doled out.
“These games can get physical and they can get nasty,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said.
“These guys’ll throw down, drop their gloves, that stuff goes on in the game, but what I saw there I haven’t seen – I think I’ve been in pro hockey 30 years maybe – and I’ve never seen that before. It’s just something you don’t see in the game.”
After some off-and-on hostilities in the first 39 minutes, Washington’s Brendan Leipsic incited the brawl by bulldozing Anaheim’s Derek Grant just before Chandler Stephenson scored to make it 3-0 Capitals with 33.4 seconds remaining in the second. Almost all 10 skaters on the ice got involved, and Hathaway fought Gudbranson, Grant and Ritchie in a matter of minutes.
Officials were attempting to separate players when Gudbranson rabbit-punched Hathaway, who then spit in his face with referee Peter MacDougall a few feet away. Officials checked the video before confirming a five-minute match penalty and game misconduct on Hathaway for spitting, which carries an automatic ejection.
“Unfortunately, spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker punched and it went onto him,” Hathaway said.
“It has no place. It was an emotional play by me. You don’t plan any of that stuff in your head, and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me to a sucker punch.”
Ducks defenseman Brendan Guhle had been agitating much of the night, almost dropping the gloves with Tom Wilson and tripping up Leipsic in various incidents. It all paved the way for the brawl.
“It just escalated,” Guhle said.
“It for sure was in the works. There were scrums all night. Guys were going after each other. That’s how it goes sometimes.”