To say things got testy in Thursday night's game between the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens would be an understatement.
By the time the horn sounded, the Panthers were able to walk away with a commanding 6-2 victory, though the storyline wasn’t about the final score. Instead, everyone was talking about the overall intensity and pure hatred between the two teams, as they combined for a ridiculous 90 penalty minutes on the evening, including three fights and three 10-minute misconducts.
While there were several heated moments throughout the contest, one of the most dramatic came late in the third period. With the score already 6-2, Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas took a big run at Habs forward Kirby Dach — in retaliation for a big hit moments earlier — appearing to go for his knee. This infuriated several of Dach’s teammates, most notably rookie Arber Xhekaj, who called out the veteran after the game.
“He never does,” Xhekaj said when asked about Gudas not answering for his questionable hit. “I don’t know what’s up with that guy. He’ll be taking runs at guys’ knees all game. He does play hard, I’ll give it to him. But at some point you’ve gotta show that you’re going to be able to do that.”
Xhekaj isn’t wrong to suggest Gudas has had some questionable incidents in the past. The 32-year-old has been suspended on numerous occasions and has had a number of other hits throughout his career that many have deemed to be dirty. That said, he adds an element of toughness to the Panthers' back end, and is good at getting under the skin of his opponents, much like he did on Thursday.
These two teams are set to meet up two more times this season, so there could be plenty more fireworks in store. The first matchup will take place on March 16 at the Bell Center, while the second will be played two weeks later on March 30 at FLA Live Arena.
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