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Return Flight: 419 penalty minutes

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There was a disagreement or two.

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Throughout the season, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane whenever the Flyers open their season series against an opponent. We’ll be remembering a game, goal, or highlight Philly created while playing against that particular team. It won’t always be the most notable memory the Orange and Black have against that team, but it’ll be something that Flyers’ fans will want to remember.

It’s not easy to make guarantees in the NHL today, but it’s safe to say tonight’s Flyers’ game against the Ottawa Senators probably isn’t going to match the insanity of the meeting these clubs had on March 5, 2004. The combination of two Stanley Cup contenders, rosters with both enforcers and players that fought often, and an incident that made one side feel slighted afterwards helped to create one of the more memorable games in Flyers’ history.

There was plenty of buildup leading to this game. The Senators eliminated the Flyers in the previous two postseasons, with a 4-1 win in the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (a series where the Flyers scored two goals) and a 4-2 win in the 2003 Eastern Conference Semifinals (where the Flyers scored 10 goals).

On top of that, a week before their March 5th meeting, the clubs took part in a 1-1 tie in Ottawa. During the third period of that loss, Martin Havlat swung his stick at Mark Recchi’s head, which Philly didn’t enjoy. Yes, a two-game suspension was the result of that action, but it’s important to remember we’re talking about the NHL back in 2004. A month earlier, the Flyers and New York Rangers engaged in a brawl that everyone has seemingly forgotten and three days after this Flyers-Senators game Todd Bertuzzi ended Steve Moore’s career.

In addition to the violence at the end, this contest featured some notable team and player milestones. Flyers’ d-man Danny Markov’s goal late in the first period was the 10,000th goal in franchise history.

Alexei Zhamnov’s goal in the third period was his 700th NHL point. Along with the milestones, several notable members of the 2003-04 Orange and Black ended up missing the brawl. The group of Keith Primeau, Eric Desjardins, and Jeremy Roenick missed the game, while both Chris Therien and Joni Pitkanen left the tilt with injuries before the PIMs started to accrue.

Chris Neil opened the scoring with his eighth of the season, but the Flyers grabbed a 3-1 lead late in the first period. Tallies from Claude Lapointe, Recchi, and Markov in a 5:29 span gave the hosts a two-goal lead heading into the second period. In the second period, Kim Johnsson extended the lead to three 5:22 into the frame thanks to a power-play goal while Mike Fisher sat in the box. Zdeno Chara answered with a power-play goal of his own later in the period while Radovan Somik sat in the sin bin for slashing to make it a two-goal game again. Zhamnov potted his 10th of the season 6:54 into the third period to make it a 5-2 game, which is where the score stood when the nonsense started to happen.

Donald Brashear and Rob Ray start going at it in Robert Esche’s crease, and things boil over from there. Here’s a full rundown of the fights that broke out, as well as how those at Drop Your Gloves (a website that might be a little biased towards the Flyers) viewed the fight:

The fights

Ottawa Philadelphia Decision
Ottawa Philadelphia Decision
Rob Ray Donald Brashear Donald Brashear
Brian Pothier Donald Brashear Draw
Todd Simpson Patrick Sharp Todd Simpson
Todd Simpson Danny Markov Draw
Patrick Lalime Robert Esche Draw
Shaun Van Allen Branko Radivojevic Shaun Van Allen
Chris Neil Radovan Somik Chris Neil
Zdeno Chara Mattias Timander Zdeno Chara
Mike Fisher Michal Handzus Mike Fisher
Bryan Smolinski Mark Recchi Mark Recchi
Jason Spezza Patrick Sharp Patrick Sharp

The fighting in this contest set all sorts of records. Here are all the important ones:

  • 419 total penalty minutes, an NHL record.
  • 213 penalty minutes for the Flyers, most in a single game for one team.
  • 409 penalty minutes assessed in the third period.
  • 21 fighting majors, 20 game misconducts, eight 10-minute misconducts, and two instigator minors.
  • It took 90 minutes for the officials to sort out all of the penalties after the game.
  • Spezza (35 PIMs), Fisher (29), Chara (27), LeClair (27), Sharp (27), Esche (27), Handzus (25), Radivojevic (25), Wade Redden (25), Van Allen (25), Smolinski (17), Lalime (17), and Somik (seven) either set or tied career highs for PIMs in a single game.
  • It wasn’t Brashear’s highest single game PIM total. He had 35 against the Rangers on March 2, 2006.
  • The only suspension handed out was to Markov, who got a one-game ban for collecting his third game misconduct of the season.

So after ALL that, the teams still had to play out the final 1:13 of regulation. Peter Bondra missed the whole fighting memo, as he scored a goal with 13 seconds left and failed to record a single penalty minute in game.

Following the game, the Flyers’ general manager at the time Bobby Clarke attempted to go into the Sens’ locker room to ‘ask’ Ottawa head coach Jacques Martin a few questions about the fight pairings, but ultimately never got into the locker room. Clarke said he was fine with Brashear, Sharp, and Recchi fighting, but if Martin doesn’t think he has a responsibility to make sure fights like Neil and Somik didn’t happen he “doesn’t have control of his bench.”

Philly’s head coach Ken Hitchcock, who wanted to exact revenge just a week before this game, seemed pretty please with the outcome. Via the Associated Press:

”Their tough guy (Rob Ray) got beat up and then their next two lines fought guys who don’t fight,” Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I don’t care what it shows them. We played a great game.”

In addition to Recchi saying his teammates “didn’t forget what happened last week” and Esche saying the Flyers weren’t “scared of Ottawa,” Brashear provided some noteworthy comments in his postgame quotes:

The teams would meet one more time in the 2003-04 regular season, but it was nowhere near as confrontational as this game. In the Senators’ 3-1 win over the Flyers on April 2, 2004, there were a total of 12 penalty minutes. Philly would go on to reach Game 7 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Final before ultimately falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the Sens lost in seven games during the opening round at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In the 2010-11 campaign, the franchises clashed again in a 6-2 Flyers’ win on January 20, 2011. The teams only combined for a mere 126 PIMs that evening, which just goes to show that what happened back in March of 2004 was an insanely obscure game.

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