The Tampa Bay Lightning were losing, and Vincent Lecavalier was mad.
Having climbed back impressively from 3-0 deficit in a matter of minutes, the Lightning captain saw the game quickly slipping away while Evgeni Malkin torched his squad for two quick highlight-reel goals, slicing through defenders, dangling goaltenders, scoring on his back.
Sensing an opportunity for something like revenge, Lecavalier lined up Malkin with what would've been a solid hit in the corner.
Problem was, he missed.
Things devolved quickly. Lecavalier took Malkin's dodge as an attempt on his knees. Malkin said he was trying not to get murdered.
"I moved down because I wanted to save myself," Malkin said. "I didn't see him before. I don't know. Maybe it was a dangerous play, but it's the game."
As you can see by the video above, NHL live analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones empathized with Lecavalier's point of view.
It was a low bridge play by Evgeni Malkin... the body check is right here, there's Malkin ducking underneath him. Lecavalier takes exception to it. goes back at him, offers him up to drop the gloves and have the fight, still after him on the same shift, and Malkin sneak attacks him there with a little shoulder to the head, and then a bunches of punches fall, including a late one by a very frustrated Vincent Lecavalier.
You know what? I can't blame Lecavalier, becuase it's a dangerous move. I mean, it's something we've seen recently ... Brad Marchand and Sami Salo, it resulted in an injury to Sami Salo and a suspension to Brad Marchand. Watch this last minute duck away from the hit, Salo ends up hitting his head on the ice and that's what Lecavalier is thinking.
In order to compare the two hits, we must also analyze them. If well-paid television analysts can't see the difference between these two hits, I'm not sure why they're well-paid.
Here's the suspension video for Marchand, which includes in-depth analysis from NHL head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan:
As the video shows, Marchand skates towards Salo along the boards. Rather than deliver a shoulder to shoulder check, Marchand drops down dangerously low into Salo's knee area, propelling Salo up and over causing an injury.
This is a violation of Rule 44: Clipping, which states: Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent. A player may not deliver a check in a "clipping" manner, nor lower his own body position to deliver a check on or below an opponent's knees.
Now go back and watch Malkin duck Lecavalier. Is he doing anything but duck away from Lecavalier? Or is he ducking towards him? Is he propelling his body at Lecavaliers knees? Or attempting to avoid Lecavalier?
Let's observe the two hits again. First, Malkin's dodge...
...and then Marchand's clip.
Marchand goes right into Salo, Malkin goes away from Lecavalier.
This isn't rocket science.
Shanahan goes further into the nature of avoiding checks:
While we understand that in certain circumstances a player may duck or bail instinctively to protect himself from an imminent, dangerous check, we do not view this play as defensive or instinctive. Rather, we feel this play was a predatory, low hit delivered intentionaly by Marchand in order to flip his opponent over him.
To "duck or bail instinctively to protect himself from an imminent, dangerous check" sounds exactly like what Malkin did.
It's debatable whether Lecavalier firmly believes that Malkin went for his knees or was simply frustrated and embarrassed. We don't know what went on in his head, and he avoided comment on the subject. We know he felt Malkin went for his knees because his coach Guy Boucher said as much.
And let's not forget, the two have a history. Malkin was suspended for kicking Lecavalier during the 2006 Olympics. Added reason for suspicion? Sure.
What we do know is how Jones and Milbury provided most prominent, widely-viewed analysis of the hit on NHL Live, one that misinformed the audience. By doing so, they did a disservice to their viewers and to NBC.