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When the Washington Capitals first met the Anaheim Ducks this season on November 18, the game went off the rails. During an especially spirited second period, Garnet Hathaway spit on Erik Gudbranson after the Ducks defenseman landed a sucker punch as the two were separated by an official. An angry Gudbranson, afterward, said the spitting “was something you just don’t do in a game – and he did it.” Hathaway, who was ejected, expressed regret. The Capitals forward was later suspended three games by the NHL.
Coming into Friday’s rematch, both teams said all the right things and downplayed what happened in November. They were more interested in the “big two points on the line.” But the Ducks later revealed that was bologna after the game was over.
According to a story by The Athletic’s Eric Stephens, Hathaway was approached by Ducks enforcer Nicolas Deslauriers during a first-period faceoff and was asked to fight and pick his poison.
“I just asked him if he was going to respond,” Deslauriers said to Stephens. “He had the option to choose me or [Gudbranson], and he said he was going to choose [Gudbranson].”
Deslauriers later fought Radko Gudas after the Capitals defenseman injured Nick Ritchie with a borderline late hip check.
Deslauriers landed 12 straight punches to Gudas’s head as the Czech d-man crumpled to the ice.
Eventually, Gudbranson and Hathaway had an angry confrontation four minutes and 56 seconds into the second period. Both players dropped their gloves but were separated by two officials. The two combatants each got 10-minute misconducts. Gudbranson got an extra minor for unsportsmanlike conduct which was served by Devin Shore.
In the third period, the two players finally fought after Gudbrandson landed a big hit into Hathaway’s chest. The two players only exchanged a handful of punches before Hathaway fell to the ice. 70 percent of HockeyFights.com commenters declared Gudbranson the victor.
After the game, Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks’ captain, called Hathaway “cowardly” for taking so long to respond.
“Hathaway could have done a lot better job at sticking up for himself,” Getzlaf said. “Answering the bell when he should have. I thought it was a cowardly thing to do to sit around and wait and wait and wait and act like he gets to make the decision when he spit on someone.”
Getzlaf added “[t]here used to be a pride and a code in our game that you answer the bell when you do things like that.”
Gudbranson expressed disappointment too but at least appeared to move on.
“Not ideal from my standpoint,” Gudbranson said. “I thought it was a pretty simple thing to deal with but he handled it the way he wanted to handle it, which is certainly not the way I would have, but at the end of the day, it happened and I’m happy it’s over with and I can put it to bed.”
The Capitals and Ducks will not play again this season unless they play each other in the Stanley Cup Final. The Capitals won both games by a combined score of 8-4.