It is safe to say Toronto Maple Leafs' forward Matt Martin doesn’t have a friend in Vancouver Canucks’ defenceman Erik Gudbranson after “rebuild on the fly” versus “started from the bottom” turned into fight night at the ACC as the Leafs downed the Canucks 6-3.
While Nazem Kadri’s questionable hit on Daniel Sedin essentially set things off early in the third period, Matt Martin’s decision to fight Troy Stecher, a rookie whom he enjoys a generous size advantage over, drew some choice words from one Canuck in particular.
“Matt Martin’s dead, everyone can hear that right now,” Gudbranson yelled, as reporters shuffled by black curtains which partioned the hallway between dressing rooms, “Fuckin’ Dead.”
Martin’s decision to take on the youngster capped off a wild final frame which featured four fights over a span of 8:10 and a combined 157 minutes in penalties, even goalie Ryan Miller was throwing punches to help his diminutive teammate.
“That’s a young guy and he’s a big guy,” Canucks' head coach Willie Desjardins said of the play. “I know that’s something that our players didn’t feel was the right thing to do.”
Desjardins and the Canucks do have a point.
Martin, known as a tough customer, is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds and in his eighth season while Stecher is very generously listed as 5-foot-10, 190 pounds and played in just his fourth career game.
“I’m not going to let this kid be baptized into this league by Martin,” Miller said. “In my mind it’s a mismatch just based on size and opportunity. I think he was a little bit predatory on that one so I had to jump in. There is no question I am going to take care of that and help out Stech.”
Something certainly had to give for the visitors who were on their way to an eighth straight loss when mayhem unfolded.
“They have had their struggles as of late and the game kind of took a turn half way through the third period (with) a couple of hits and you could kind of see it escalate and escalate,” Martin said. “Probably went a little over the top in the game but those types of things happen from time to time.”
As the puck went into the corner Stecher said he realized what was about to unfold with Martin lurking close by.
“I obviously watch NHL Network, and know who he was,” Stecher said. “I kind of realized I was in over my head.”
Less than five minutes prior to engaging with Stecher, Martin had been jawing at Canucks’ forward Derek Dorsett from the bench as Dorsett was being escorted off the ice after receiving and instigator and misconduct for fighting Leo Komarov.
In the coming days, Kadri may face supplemental discipline as could Alexandre Burrows who looked to have speared Morgan Rielly prior to their altercation.
Meanwhile, Gudbranson may have avoided any punishment as his outburst did not occur with cameras and microphones on him at the time.
“I don’t care too much about that,” Martin said when asked about Gudbranson’s threat. “The game will be played the next time we play them and it will run its course I am sure.”
The two teams will meet again on Dec. 3 in Vancouver.
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