Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon raced to clear a puck from the Colorado zone late in the second period Monday night when it happened — a gloved sucker-punch to the back to of the head from Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban.
MacKinnon, whose second goal in the Avs’ 5-3 victory was followed by “MVP” chants inside the Pepsi Center, spun to the ice. MacKinnon then held Subban’s skate as he stood above him, just before Avs captain Gabe Landeskog arrived to knock Subban down. A short scuffle followed. The crowd shifted its chants to “Subban sucks!”
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Subban received a penalty; however, the punishment didn’t appear to fit the crime. He was assessed a holding minor and Colorado’s advantage was nixed by the same call on MacKinnon. Although he mostly shrugged off the hit in the Avs’ postgame dressing room, calling the incident “nothing, really.”
The NHL Department of Player Safety will review the hit and has the authority to hand down a fine and/or suspension as early as Tuesday.
“I think you’ve got to deal with some of that,” Avs’ coach Jared Bednar said. “There are certain things that I don’t like that’s happening there. I’d like to see them call it. But I thought they did a good job of calling the original penalties and taking one guy instead of letting it get out of hand.”
Subban’s over-the-top personality and aggressive playing style has rubbed plenty hockey traditionalists the wrong way through his nine-season career. He is well accustomed to the wrath of opposing fans as boos rain down nearly every time he touches the puck in most any NHL arena outside Nashville.
“I don’t think it was too bad, to be honest with you,” Landeskog said of the hit on MacKinnon. “That’s the way it goes. Obviously, Nate is our best player. They’re going to try and get him off his balance. But you saw what happened. It just got (MacKinnon) fired up. He just gets better.”
Monday’s matchup featured at least seven different skirmishes. The Avs expect nothing less for Game 4 on Wednesday night.
“I think both teams are under each other’s skin,” Bednar said. “That’s what happens when you play a seven-game series and you’re in Game 3. I think the emotions are high.”