The Steven Stamkos-led Lightning stunned the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in Game 5 on Thursday night as Ondrej Palat potted the game-winner with less than two minutes remaining to secure a 3-2 series lead for Tampa heading back home.
The arena went silent until tempers flared once the final buzzer — which felt more like the bell to begin a boxing match — rang. In the middle of it all were two unlikely suspects: Lightning captain Stamkos and young Rangers star forward Alexis Lafreniere.
It wasn't the wildest tilt we've ever seen, but the anger in both their eyes was palpable as both swung for — albeit mostly missing — the fences in a heated scuffle.
Nikita Kucherov throws one on net as the game expires and the Rangers take offense, leading into a fight between Lafreniere and Stamkos and some definite tomfoolery elsewhere#NoQuitInNY | #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/XYXAFGo3ke
— NHL Highlights #StanleyCup | HockeyDaily365 (@HockeyDaily365) June 10, 2022
Behind the Rangers’ net, the two first-overall round picks jawed at each other while dancing a little bit before some pushing and shoving ensued. Lafreniere threw his hand in the captain’s face and Stamkos' gloves came off.
Stamkos swung a loaded right hand at Lafreniere, failing to connect with his chin. He still managed to get additional shots at the back of his head before taking him down to the ice, however.
According to Hockey Fights, this was Lafreniere's second career fight, with his first coming against New York Islanders forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau back in November 2021. While Stamkos has more experience with a total of five career tilts, his last one took place more than three years ago when he dropped the gloves with Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin in January 2019. This was also the first time that two first overall picks have dropped the gloves in a playoff game.
Stamkos is a leader in all aspects for Tampa Bay, who is now just one victory away from a meeting with the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final and a shot at a third consecutive title.
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