It didn’t take much for tension to boil over between the Detroit Red Wings and Calgary Flames in the third period Wednesday night, but that will happen when Matthew Tkachuk is involved. He’s becoming one of the NHL’s most well-known agitators, and reminded us all why in setting off a line brawl.
All it took was a little tap to an ejected Luke Witkowski’s leg as he entered the tunnel to leave the ice. Suddenly, it looked like a scene from the 1980s out there.
Line brawl between the Red Wings and Flames all started because of Tkachuk's slash on Witkowski after he left the box pic.twitter.com/k0XIbwrhWY— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) November 16, 2017
Witkowski had been ejected from the game just before this. Here’s more on the context from Winging It In Motown:
Both teams were playing out a foregone conclusion when 7th D-man/occasional forward Luke Witkowski tangled with Calgary defenseman Brett Kulak. Witkowski quickly brought Kulak down and then rag-dolled him on the ice before looking to challenge Travis Hamonic to a fight. The ragdolling was a similar kind of etiquette breach that originally brought Witkowski down on Anthony Mantha last year when he was with the Lightning, if you’ll remember.
The referees gave Witkowski a fighting major and a game misconduct, first skating him to the box and then escorting him across the ice to the tunnel where Matthew Tkachuk jawed at and eventually tapped Witkowski with his stick. At this time, the ejected fighter came back onto the surface to try and square up with Tkachuk. This set off a brawl that ended with Anthony Mantha and Travis Hamonic both fighting and getting ejected and Tkachuk getting a spearing major for... this.
Yes, Tkachuk received a spearing major for that tap. Presumably the NHL would prefer that players try not to provoke a guy who has already been ejected. Emotions are high in those moments, as you can see. Now the Red Wings defenseman is facing a potential 10-game suspension for his decision to head back out for some fisticuffs. Mantha and Hamonic were also ejected for fighting.
This isn’t the first time that Tkachuk has set off an opponent. His ongoing feud with Drew Doughty has led to some vicious hits and jawing at the Kings defenseman in one recent example. For a recent top-10 draft pick who is also one of the Flames’ top scorers, the soon-to-be 20-year-old is a serious pest.
We don’t see many line brawls in the NHL anymore as the league tries to move away from entire teams trying to fight each other, but irritating opponents is a part of Tkachuk’s game. Sometimes, that might lead to someone losing their temper.