Saturday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers was an ugly one. It was a penalty-filled affair, with 76 minutes handed out – 38 in the first period – by referees Steve Kozari and Mark Lemelin.
Late in the first, the two teams came together at the Panthers’ net after two Penguins crashed into Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo. Defensemen Willie Mitchell and Kris Letang dropped the gloves. The fight was mostly clutching and grabbing, with Mitchell landing two punches as linesmen Andy McElman and Derek Amell tried to separate the two.
That’s when Mitchell decided to step up his attack. The Florida blueliner decided to use Letang’s own helmet against him.
Surprisingly, no additional penalty was called on Mitchell aside from the fighting major. While referee Steve Kozari was nearby, he was focused on the remaining players around the Florida crease.
The NHL rulebook doesn’t specify on use of helmets in a fight, but Mitchell’s actions may fall under Rule 53:
Rule 53 – Throwing Equipment
53.5 Match Penalty – If a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent by throwing a stick or any other object or piece of equipment at an opposing player, he shall be assessed a match penalty.
Mitchell also put the linesmen at risk by attempting to continue the fight and swinging Letang’s helmet in a way that could’ve injured either of the officials trying to break things up.
There’s been no word from the league on possible discipline for Mitchell. The two teams meet again on Monday night.