ABOVE: Canucks coach John Tortorella tries to storm the Flames dressing room after a massive brawl during first period. Courtesy: CBC / NHL
Two seconds was all it took to ignite a fist-throwing rivalry between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames in Vancouver Saturday night, but the brawl was expected as soon as the starting line-ups were announced.
The wild first-period fight between the two teams ended in eight players being ejected from the game, Canucks coach John Tortorella getting in an altercation outside the Flames dressing room and the home team ending their three-game losing streak.
However, the 3-2 shootout win was overshadowed by all the drama throughout the game.
Just two seconds had ticked off the clock when all five skaters from each team taking the opening faceoff dropped their gloves and began throwing punches.
Calgary heavyweight Brian McGrattan was left bloodied in a fight with Vancouver tough guy Tom Sestito. Tortorella made no apologies for matching the Flames’ muscle with his own.
“I see the starting lineup and I know the other guy across the bench and it’s easy for people to say ‘Well put the Sedins out there and it’s deflated.’ I can’t put our players at risk like that,” he said. “With the lineup that (Hartley) had, I am not going to put those types of players at risk, and that’s what ensues… I’m not proud of it. I’ve apologized to every one of the players involved in it. I don’t feel great about it at all.”
Sestito said he knew McGrattan was going to come after him.
“Torts came in and told us that they’re starting those idiots over there so we’re going to match that and go with it,” said Sestito, who leads the NHL with 167 penalty minutes in 47 games. “They started their goon squad over there,” “I just don’t think we’re going to be backing down from guys.”
However, Flames defenceman Chris Butler said the fight wasn’t expected.
“I don’t think anybody expected that,” said Chris Butler, one of eight players ejected from the game.
“It’s been a while since something like that happened, five guys pairing off.”
Minor league callup Kellan Lain’s first game as a Canuck was brief. He was tossed for fighting with Calgary’s Kevin Westgarth, who has no points in 21 games for the Flames.
Also receiving game misconducts were Vancouver’s Dale Weise plus defencemen Kevin Bieksa and Jason Garrison. Shown the door for Calgary was Westgarth, Blair Jones, Ladislav Smid and Butler.
Ironically, Sestito and McGrattan remained in the game.
In the aftermath of the brawl Tortorella could be seen yelling at the Flames bench.
Later in the period, Calgary’s Mark Giordano punched Vancouver’s Alex Burrows in the face. Burrows was wearing a facemask to protect a broken jaw. It was his first game since Dec. 1.
The bad blood wasn’t confined to the ice. At the end of the first period cameras captured Tortorella attempting to go into the Flames locker room at Rogers Arena. McGrattan pushed him away.
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Flames goaltender coach Clint Malarchuk came out of the Flames dressing room after Tortorella and McGrattan were separated. Malarchuk followed Tortorella, but was restrained by several members of Calgary’s staff and McGrattan.
Another camera showed Vancouver defenceman Chris Tanev pulling Burrows back toward the Canucks dressing room.
Tortorella refused to comment on the incident. He faces discipline from the NHL Monday and may be suspended for the altercation.
Flames’ coach Bob Hartley was left shaking his head over Tortorella charging his team’s dressing room.
“I just don’t understand,” he said. “I got out of there. I don’t need to get suspended or fined.
“There is nothing to be settled there. I just don’t understand what was going on.”
Hartley also defended his starting lineup.
“Those guys are playing well for us,” he said. “They got a goal last game. We’re not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there.”
As for the actual game, Ryan Kesler had a goal and an assist, and Yannick Weber also scored in regulation for the Canucks (25-16-9), who got 31 saves from Roberto Luongo in his return from injury.
Mark Giordano and Matt Stajan scored for the Flames (16-26-7), who got 31 saves from Ramo.
Chris Higgins got the win after scoring in the fifth round of the shootout.
With files from the Canadian Press