Florida Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg has been suspended for one game for instigating a fight against Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak. The automatic suspension comes after Lomberg was penalized for instigating the fight in the final five minutes of play. In addition, Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette has been fined $10,000 for the incident.
Linesman Matt MacPherson immediately jumped in to separate the two players.
Lomberg was given a minor penalty for instigating, a major penalty for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct, and a game misconduct for the incident, which came at 16:24 of the third period with the Lightning leading 7-4. Brunette was ejected from the game.
While the instigator penalty in general calls for an instigating minor, a fighting major, and a misconduct, instigator penalties late in games are handled differently per Rule 46.12:
A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at any time in overtime shall be assessed an instigator minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting, and a game misconduct penalty.
The rule above was modified in 1996 to require the 2/5/10 in an attempt to reduce fighting, particularly in those situations where one player goes after another.
So what exactly – according to the NHL rulebook – is an instigator? From Rule 46.11:
An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing
attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.
Lomberg’s suspension, as well as the fine to Brunette, are automatic under Rule 46.21, which was added to the NHL Rule Book in 2005:
A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at anytime in overtime, shall be suspended for one game, pending a review of the incident.
When the one-game suspension is imposed, the Coach shall be fined $10,000 – a fine that will double for each subsequent incident. The suspension shall be served unless, upon review of the incident, the Director of Hockey Operations, at his discretion, deems the incident is not related to the score, previous incidents in the game or prior games, retaliatory in nature, “message sending”, etc. The length of suspension will double for each subsequent offense. This suspension shall be served in addition to any other automatic suspensions a player may incur for an accumulation of three or more instigator penalties.
The last time the NHL suspended a player for instigating a fight in the final five minutes was back in 2018. The player? Ryan Lomberg, then with the Calgary Flames, who left the bench to go after Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, also costing head coach Bill Peters $10,000.
Only four other players have been suspended in the past decade for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of play: Max Domi (2016, Arizona Coyotes), – Travis Hamonic (2014, New York Islanders), Eric Selleck (2013, Florida Panthers), and Craig Adams (2012, Pittsburgh Penguins). Vancouver’s Alex Burrows and Calgary’s Deryk Engelland nearly were in 2015, but both saw their automatic suspensions rescinded by the league.
Lomberg forfeits $3,625 in salary as a result of the one-game suspension.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have now drawn a total of $18,375 in fines and penalties in the past week. Toronto’s Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds were also fined $2,250 and $2,500, respectively, after an 8-1 Leafs loss to the Lightning on Thursday.
The Lightning won the game 8-4, which saw a total of 90 penalty minutes handed out. Referees for the game were Wes McCauley (#4) and Chris Rooney (#5). Linesmen were Kiel Murchison (#79) and Matt MacPherson (#83).