The first rule of “Fight Club” is that you do not talk about Fight Club.
Zac Rinaldo kept to that rule on Tuesday night, refusing to talk about his motivation for the beatdown he put on Tampa Bay’s B.J. Crombeen during first period fisticuffs.
Still, an elated Tom Sestito - who netted his first NHL goals in 776 days - couldn’t help but be proud of Rinaldo’s effort to protect his teammates.
“What (Crombeen) did to ‘G’ (Claude Giroux) last game, he had something coming to him,” Sestito said. “We weren’t going to do it dirty. He answered the bell and good for Zac. It was just a great fight.”
Apparently, Crombeen had been a hot topic in the Flyers’ dressing room after their 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay on Jan. 27.
Not long after Vincent Lecavalier’s first period fight in that game, Crombeen attacked the wrists of Flyers captain Claude Giroux with three deliberate slashes all in the same shift. That didn't go unnoticed.
Giroux, of course, had offseason surgery to repair fractures on both wrists, which he said came from Sidney Crosby during last year’s epic first round playoff series.
Rinaldo did not play in that game. When asked, he wouldn’t offer any insight into why the fight started. It ended, though, with Crombeen dazed and confused, barely able to skate off the ice under his own power after Rinaldo finished him with a few hard rights.
“I didn’t play down in Tampa, and to be honest with you, I had no idea what happened down in Tampa,” Rinaldo said. “I watched them from way up in the press box and no one really talked to me about it. It was just a hockey fight.
“He asked me, actually. We bumped each other’s shoulders and he’s like ‘we’re going?’ and I was like ‘yeah’ and it happened.”
Crombeen did not return to the game for “precautionary” reasons. Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said Crombeen could have returned, as he was riding a stationary bike and passed all tests, but they decided to hold him out.
Danny Briere said Rinaldo’s fight definitely gave the Flyers the early momentum. Peter Laviolette said it provided a “huge bolt of energy.” The 19,616 fans packed into the Wells Fargo Center roared when Rinaldo connected with Crombeen’s face flush and sent him to the ice seeing stars.
Crombeen hinted after the game, in a passive-aggressive way, that Rinaldo broke the NHL’s ultimate “Fight Club” rule by throwing punches after he had already went down.
“Typically when I’ve gotten into fights with guys in that position, you stop throwing,” Crombeen said. “I mean, guys fight different ways, so I’m not really going to say if it was dirty or not. I mean, if you’re fighting, you’re fighting. You’re putting yourself in that situation, and you know the consequences.”
Crombeen, in his 69th career NHL fight, made the mistake of continue to tug at Rinaldo when he fell to one knee.
Rinaldo said he had no regrets.
“I hit him until he was down,” Rinaldo explained. “I’m not going to hit nobody, no matter who they are or what they’ve done, I’ll never hit someone when they’re down. I hit him until he was down and I made sure he was down. That was it.”
Perhaps even feeling a little guilty, Rinaldo asked referee Kelly Sutherland whether he had crossed the line.
“I kind of felt bad, if maybe I didn’t stop myself, but I’m pretty sure I did,” Rinaldo said, with a bandage covering a cut on the bridge of his nose. “He said, ‘No, you’re good. It was fine, you hit him right before he went down, you made him fall down.’
“So many things are going through your mind while you’re fighting, it’s a fight.”
Rinaldo’s extra shots may have provoked Lecavalier to take an extra swing at Max Talbot during their third period fight. In his second fight in as many games against the Flyers, Lecavalier appeared to connect with Talbot’s face while he was laying flat on the ice on his back.
It’s a shame these two teams don’t meet again until March 18. There’s plenty of bad blood to go around.
Image courtesy of Cameron on hockeyfights.com
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