Wednesday’s 7-0 season-opening win for the Washington Capitals ended on somewhat of a sour note as Lars Eller was left bloodied after a fight with Brad Marchand.
Why would a player like Eller — who had zero fights in his career until Wednesday’s game — want to drop the gloves with a guy like Marchand who is never afraid to mix things up? He wouldn’t. That was evident to anyone who watched a replay of the fight. Marchand, however, would not take no for an answer and began throwing punches before Eller could even throw off his gloves, essentially forcing him into the fight.
“That's something that is unfortunate and I feel unjust and certainly a player that wasn't prepared for it in Lars,” Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said. “I think there was an early start to that fight as well.”
Reirden did not have an update on Eller’s status for Thursday’s game.
The Bruins took exception to Eller celebrating after scoring in the third period to put the Caps up 7-0.
“His celebration was unnecessary,” Marchand said. “He took an angle in front of our bench and celebrated in a 7-0 game. So I just let him know.”
“That’s good,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “[Marchand’s]a proud guy. I think Eller celebrated a little on a 7-0 goal. I think that's his prerogative and Marchy let him know that that's not acceptable. That's that and we move on.”
The fight, however, did not sit well within the Capitals locker room.
“I understand why they were frustrated at Lars there,” T.J. Oshie said, “But you go up to a guy and you ask him to fight and if he doesn't... It's a long season. We play them a lot of times. They could have handled that differently."
After seeing the NHL throw the book at Tom Wilson by handing him a 20-game suspension earlier Wednesday, the Caps hope the NHL would take a good, long look at Marchand’s actions given that he is also a player with his own checkered history including a five-game suspension last season for an elbow he delivered to Marcus Johansson.
With Wilson’s suspension, the NHL sent a message to a repeat offender that he needed to change his game. On Wednesday, Washington watched as another repeat offender began throwing punches to a player who wanted no part of the fight.
The parallels between the two players were certainly not lost within the Caps.
“[The NHL] set the standards, they want to get the dirty stuff out of the game,” Oshie said. “Which I think at least Tom's play was on the ice and he was hitting the guy that had the puck milliseconds before. And then you see tonight the sucker punches that Lars took in. So they kind of set the standard. Marchand has a history, and we trust that they'll do what they're supposed to do and take care of business."
Said Reirden, “We'll let other people take care of that.”
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