Florida Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk was ejected from game after getting revenge on Devils captain Nico Hischier

Aerial view of FLA Live Arena, site of the Tkachuk fight – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by YES Market Media

Matthew Tkachuk recognized his chance and seized it.

After the New Jersey Devils’ empty-net goal on Wednesday night, a furious brawl broke out in the closing seconds of Florida’s 4-2 loss to New Jersey. After it became necessary to separate Damon Severson of the Devils and Sam Bennett of the Panthers, players from both teams started to fight.

Tkachuk made a beeline for Devils captain Nico Hischier while everyone else was looking for a partner.

Tkachuk was persistent in his pursuit of the Swiss center, grabbing hold of the collar of his jersey, trying to feed him punches while Hischier had his head down, and even continuing to skate after him after they first became separated.

After several unsuccessful attempts, the officials managed to separate Tkachuk from Hischier, and the Panthers winger was then sent off for the game’s final few seconds.

But this wasn’t just a random assault.

It didn’t help that it looked as planned as any open-ice headshot, but Hischier stuck to his guns that it was not on purpose.

“That was a huge draw. I take pride in my draws and obviously I didn’t do it on purpose,” Hischier said after the game. “I didn’t even see it until the second period. I definitely hit his knee but it was not something I wanted to do or a dirty play. …It was definitely unlucky and I hope he’s not hurt too bad.”

Thankfully, Barkov is only officially listed as day-to-day so he won’t be away from the team for an extended period of time.

Nevertheless, Tkachuk viewed Wednesday’s “post-game scrum” as a chance to vent his frustrations and exact some sort of retribution on his fallen captain. The season of the Panthers has not gone as planned, and when one of the league’s finest centers is lost for any length of time, it creates the ideal environment for some extracurricular activities.

The Panthers’ record after their defeat by the Devils is 15-15-4, a long cry from their Presidents’ Trophy-winning performance from the previous year. In South Florida, not much is going as planned, but maybe Tkachuk’s post-whistle theatrics can light a fire under the Panthers and propel them toward more hockey victories.

Tkachuk is by far the team’s top scorer in his first season in Florida, with 14 goals and 39 points across 31 games.

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