It might not be the kind of thing you want to see your superstar players engaged in when you're this close to playoff hockey, however there's little doubt in my mind that Colorado Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon earned even more respect that he already commands on Friday night.
MacKinnon and the Avalanche were facing off a San Jose Sharks team that doesn't have much hope of making the playoffs which can always be dangerous when you're playoff bound and although the Avalanche would cruise to a 3 - 0 victory in this one, things got a little ugly for the Avs during the game's third and final frame.
The incident that would spark MacKinnon's desire to drop the gloves came roughly midway through that frame when Sharks forward Kevin Labanc sent Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard crashing awkwardly into the boards after the two got tangled up during a race for the puck. The Avalanche were not at all happy about how Labanc acted during the play, something that Avs head coach Jared Bednar would confirm following the game.
"You can't argue that his stick is in Girard's feet," said Bednar. ?I didn't like the non-call. We'll survive the non-call as long as Girard is able to come back and play. That's my concern."
"It's not a safe play," he added.
Although Bednar himself was not a big fan of what he clearly felt was a dangerous play on his young defenseman, it was MacKinnon who was arguably the most fired up following the incident. MacKinnon immediately went after Labanc after seeing his fellow teammate down in pain on the ice, starting with a stiff crosscheck to the Sharks forward's upper body. That crosscheck would lead to players from both teams getting involved, eventually caused a large scrum behind the net, and although it looked like that would have been the end of it MacKinnon was clearly out for revenge.
After the National Hockey League's officiating crew began to pull the scrum apart, MacKinnon and Lebanc found separation from the crowd and immediately began trading blows with MacKinnon seemingly getting the best of the exchange. It was a brief affair but one that appeared to leave MacKinnon with some type of cut, although it wasn't immediately clear from where.
Here's a replay of the entire incident: