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You remember the old joke about the guy who went to see a fight and was surprised when a hockey game broke out? Yeah, welcome to Game Three of the playoff series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.
There is no doubt that the teams do not like each other, but tensions ran, well, high seems like too light a word after the Flyers beat the Pens handily twice in Pittsburgh. What do you call the situation where you know a huge fight is going to break out at the slightest provocation, like a standoff between two gangs of gunmen in a restaurant that explodes into gunshots when a surprised waiter drops a tray of dishes? Well, someone dropped the dishes in the first period, which gave both teams all the reason they needed to drop the gloves.
And that was the first brawl. In all, officials handed out 72 minutes worth of penalties in the first period alone including game misconduct penalties (which in hockey-speak means the referee tossed three players out of the game). One of those players was tough-guy Arron Asham, who earned his ejection for this cheap-shot.
All of that, however, was mere prelude to the grand melee that erupted late in the third period after the Penguins’ James Neal leveled the Flyers’ Sean Couturier then went after star forward Claude Giroux. Yet more ejections and a truckload of penalty minutes later, this is how Twitter reacted.
— Christine Rousselle (@crousselle) April 15, 2012
RT @drosennhl: An incredibly loud "You can't beat us" chant has started here at WFC. I mean loud. I've never heard a chant this loud.
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) April 15, 2012
Wow, a team with less class than the Flyers. that's pretty impressive work by the Penguins.
— DrewMTips (@DrewMTips) April 15, 2012
Neal just spent his last shift just trying to hurt somebody. That's not hockey.
— RMNB (@russianmachine) April 15, 2012
Yes, tensions are high, and a lot is on the line. But dear goodness, keep it classy. That's to both sides. #NHL
— Marie Bernadette G (@MbernadetteE) April 15, 2012
James Neal goes after Couturier, then Giroux; Penguins completely outclassed; the refs completely lost control of this 2 shifts ago
— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) April 15, 2012
This, by the way, was a very small sample. Our Twitter timeline was spinning like the tumblers on a slot machine as officials tried desperately to remind both teams that they were in the NHL Playoffs, not Wrestlemania.
The NBC network, which televised this debacle, seemed pretty pleased that it and the NHL got a couple trending topic out of the day. So there’s that.
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 15, 2012
Team defense has also taken a hit in the series, which has provided plenty of goals. Did I say “plenty”? I meant almost half the goals scored in all the playoff games to date.
The 7 other series have combined for 67 goals in 14 games. Pens & Flyers have combined for 32 through 3.
— Sean Leahy (@Sean_Leahy) April 15, 2012