Brad Marchand clearly said something that irritated Artemi Panarin in Friday night's Bruins-Rangers game. But if you ask Marchand, Panarin needs some thicker skin.
Panarin drew a $5,000 fine from the NHL over the weekend for throwing his glove at Marchand late in New York's 5-2 win over Boston at TD Garden. Marchand laughed off the incident after the game, but on Tuesday, the star forward shared what he said that set Panarin off.
"I said that no one in Russia likes him," Marchand said. "So if that is now what is setting guys over the edge, then this is the softest league in the world and no one should be allowed to say anything. Because there's a lot worse things said out there than that.
"If that's what he's crying about, then it is what it is."
Panarin confirmed Saturday that Marchand's comment about Russia was what irked him.
"I didn’t really understand what he said in the moment because we had a little conversation with bad energy," Panarin told reporters, via The Journal News in New York. "Then I hear something about Russia in that moment, and then with that energy, that can’t be something good about Russia. So, that's why I lose my mind and then I did what I did."
There's some necessary context here: In February, Panarin's former KHL coach, Andrei Nazarov, accused Panarin of physically assaulting an 18-year-old woman in 2011. Panarin strongly denied the allegations, which didn't result in any charges due to a lack of evidence. Panarin claimed Nazarov's accusation was politically motivated after the NHL star criticized Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Panarin's standing in his home country is clearly a sensitive issue for the 30-year-old. It's unclear whether Marchand was aware of the full backstory Friday night, but if so, he probably should have expected some retaliation.
Marchand is currently serving a three-game suspension for slew-footing Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and will return to the team next week.