It wasn’t surprising that the Sharks' New Year's Eve meeting with the Calgary Flames turned chippy toward the end. The hosts had scored eight goals, and given that it was a battle for first place in the Pacific Division, emotions were particularly fragile.
But anger really boiled over on Team Teal’s bench in the final minute when one of their players ended up on the wrong side of a late hit.
With time winding down and the Flames about to skate away with an 8-5 win at the Saddledome, Calgary center Sam Bennett went out of his way to lay a high hit on San Jose defenseman Radim Simek, who had just passed the puck to a teammate. That's when Bennett charged at Simek and clocked him right in the head.
Sharks winger Barclay Goodrow immediately went for Bennett, and the two exchanged punches while Simek remained down on the ice.
Needless to say, the Sharks weren't happy about the hit. When coach Peter DeBoer was asked for his thoughts on it after the game, his answer was short and clipped.
"Predatory," he said. "That’s it."
Bennett's actions certainly stood out, even though the hit came in the final minute of play and there had been a fair amount of physicality throughout the game.
"The game's changed a lot from when I came in 10 years ago," said Sharks winger Evander Kane, who was tied for the team lead with three hits. "There won't be as much talk, there will be a little more action."
Kane, who adds plenty of grit to the Sharks’ lineup, was booted from the contest just 16 seconds earlier after his altercation with Mathew Tkachuk drew 10-minute misconduct penalties for both players, plus Calgary's Rasmus Andersson. That didn’t stop Kane from having an opinion about the Bennett hit, though.
"I saw the replay," he said. "Boy, it's funny. Like I said, there's a lot of talk. Then I leave the game, and guys get a little taller out there."
After the hit, TV cameras panned to the Sharks' bench, where players and coaches were visibly disgusted -- and rightfully so. Bennett’s hit is a picture-perfect example of what the NHL wants to eliminate from the game. While Bennett received a match penalty -- as did Goodrow for leaping to his teammate's defense -- the league certainly will take another look at the hit for possible punishment.
The Sharks didn’t have an update on Simek's condition immediately after the game, but they're sure to remember Bennett's hit when the teams meet again Feb. 7 in Calgary.