Defenseman Jon Merrill wasn’t planning on engaging in his first career fight when the Golden Knights hosted the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.
“It was just spur of the moment,” he said after the game, sporting a black eye from a series of left hands landed by Mark Borowiecki. “I was just trying to be there for my teammate.”
Merrill immediately sought out Borowiecki after the bruising Senators’ defenseman had delivered a big blow to the head of Knights’ forward Cody Eakin in the first period.
He certainly didn’t cherry-pick his opponent.
The bout was a bit of a mismatch in terms of experience as Borowiecki is approaching 50 fights in his NHL career, according to hockeyfights.com. It was more about the principle for Merrill.
“(He was) obviously stepping up for his teammates and that was real big,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “Jonny’s not a big fighter, but when your teammate gets run over like that, he stepped up and it was perfect. Exactly what you have to do.”
Eakin didn’t return to the game and the team didn’t have an update on his status for a two-game road trip that begins Tuesday in Nashville.
Ryan Reaves, a prolific fighter in his own right, was proud of Merrill’s performance.
“Great on him,” the Knights’ forward said. “Borowiecki is a tough kid and he’s a lefty, so I tip my hat to Jonny for stepping in there and sticking up for a teammate. That’s not an easy thing to do.”
The league’s Department of Player Safety announced Borowiecki would be suspended three games without pay for the hit after a hearing Monday. He was ejected from Sunday’s game.
Borowiecki was playing in his first game after serving a one-game suspension for an illegal elbow last week.
He got at least three good left hands in on Merrill during the fight. Merrill wasn’t sure if he was able to land any counters.
“He’s probably all right,” Merrill joked.
Forward Jonathan Marchessault’s game-winning penalty shot in overtime against the Senators on Sunday was the 15th penalty-shot goal in overtime in NHL history. The Knights became the 13th difference franchise to score such a goal in their 4-3 victory.
There have been only five penalty-shot goals in overtime during past two seasons.
“I mean, it’s a crap shoot,” Senators goaltender Craig Anderson said. “Good shooter there, probably one of the best skilled guys. You know he made a perfect shot just inside the post over the pad. So, you know, it is what it is.”
Ottawa coach Guy Boucher, your thoughts on the hooking call on Mark Stone that cost your team a point?
“We’re not allowed to say anything,” Boucher said.
The Nashville Predators are tied for the most points in the Western Conference but Bridgestone Arena, where the Knights play Tuesday, hasn’t been a fearsome venue this season. The Predators are 3-3 at home but 5-0 on the road.