By Eli Bernstein
It's been a tough season so far for the Flyers. An 0-3 start led to the (probably overdue) firing of coach Peter Laviolette in October, but the shakeup on the bench hasn't resulted in a turnaround. Thanks mostly to an anemic offense and hit-or-miss defense, Philadelphia is currently sitting on six points, good for last place in the entire NHL.
The Flyers' offense wasn't exactly its usual moribund self, and actually got off 30 shots against Caps netminder Braden Holtby. Not one found the back of the net though, and so after Ward scored 5:23 into the third period to make the score 7-0, the hosts decided to make some fireworks with their fists instead.
The brouhaha began after Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds leveled Caps defenseman Steve Olesky with a check near the Washington blue line. Tom Wilson immediately came to his teammate's defense, and as the refs watched the two tangle, Flyers goalie Ray Emery rushed down the ice, intent on going mano-a-mano with his counterpart Holbty.
Now, even though he's a goalie, Emery is known for his pugilism skills. He's even off against a non-goalie not once twice, in both the NHL and AHL. Holtby was thus understandably somewhat hesitant to engage in fisticuffs, but Emery wouldn't take no for an answer. What followed was an unmitigated pounding, as Emery continued to throw haymakers even as Holtby fell to his knees.
Two undercards (Steve Olesky vs. Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn vs. Alexander Urbom) followed the main event, as the crowd continued to egg on their hometown
boxing club hockey team. Holtby looked dazed and visibly bruised after his encounter with Emery, but would go on to preserve the shutout. The Flyers would finish with 99 more penalty minutes than goals, but perhaps also with a new sense of camaraderie born out of not losing without a fight.
After the game, Emery defended his decision to go after Holtby, saying the opposing netminder had every chance to change the outcome.