Better With Popcorn

Zac Rinaldo's TKO of BJ Crombeen Earns Extra Attention

There is a certain code that players adhere to in the NHL in regards to fighting.

If a combatant wants to participate in a fight but is wearing a shield, he will take his helmet off. If he notices another fighter is seriously hurt, he will stop the fight.

And if a guy is on the ice or in a defenseless position, punches must stop being thrown.

There have been times where these codes have been broken and the player has had to answer for his sins. But in Tuesday's 2-1 win over the Lightning, Zac Rinaldo fell subject to one of these codes, having been accused of breaking the third code.

In the first period, Rinaldo and Lightning forward B.J. Crombeen decided to have a row [video]. The subject of the fight was assumedly Claude Giroux, who Crombeen slashed repeatedly in the Flyers 5-1 loss to the Lightning on January 27.

But Rinaldo was a bit hesitant to admit that the incident in Tampa Bay stemmed his fight with Crombeen.

"I didn’t play down in Tampa, and to be honest with you, I had no clue what happened down in Tampa," said Rinaldo. "I watched the game but two guys collided and he asked me first so I answered back."

Tom Sestito, however, knew that the incident with Giroux caused a little bit of a buzz within in the Flyers locker room and he was happy to see Rinaldo step up to the call and defend his captain.

"What [Crombeen] did to [Giroux] last game, he had something coming to him," said the fellow enforcer Sestito, who scored both goals for the Flyers. "We weren’t going to do it dirty. He answered the bout and good for Zac."

Rinaldo answered with more than just a fight. After a few partially-landed punches, Rinaldo coldcocked Crombeen to win the fight.

Crombeen never returned to the game due to precautionary reasons, earning Rinaldo the TKO.

The issue wasn't the fact Rinaldo knocked out Crombeen but what happened while the two were on their way down to the ice.

While Crombeen was falling, Rinaldo kept swinging, but barely connected with Crombeen. He immediately was accused by some of the Lightning to have violated one of the codes of hockey.

"I hit him until he was down," said Rinaldo after the game. "I’m not going to hit nobody no matter who they are or what they done. I’ll never hit someone when they’re down. I hit him until he was down and made sure he was down and that was it."

Rinaldo even sought the opinion of referee Kelly Sutherland, who even told Rinaldo that he did nothing wrong at the end of the fight.

"I went up to him. I kind of felt bad if maybe I didn’t stop myself but I’m pretty sure I did. I even asked Kelley; I asked him what he thought and he said, 'no you’re good, it was fine you hit him right before he went down, you made him fall down.'"

The incident left bad blood brewing throughout the rest of the game. Vincent Lecavlier fought Max Talbot in the third period, getting in an extra shot of his own at the end when Talbot was flat on his back.

The extra punch from Lecavlier didn't earn him any extra attention from the refs. And if it grabbed the attention of anyone on the Flyers, no one talked about it after the game.

Not even Talbot or Lecavlier had anything to say after the game about their fight. But Rinaldo offered up some interesting input on what happens in those types of fights.

"I’m not no one to say nothing like that, I don’t know," Rinaldo said. "It’s a fight, man. It’s hockey. So many things are going through your mind while you’re fighting. It’s a fight. You ever been to a fight? It’s crazy. You don’t know what you’re thinking."

Emotions certainly were running high, and they all spilled over at the end of the game, especially in the Lightning locker room.

Lightning fourth liner Pierre-Cedric Labrie sent out a clear message that Rinaldo better be on alert the next time the two teams meet.

“I told him 'keep your head up because I’ll be coming for you in the matchup after that,'" said Labrie, who was shown chirping with Rinaldo during the game. "Again in front of the bench he hammered, tried to hammer St. Marty [Martin St. Louis] and Vinny [Lecavlier] wanted to change for me, but he was already on the bench. One day, one day."

The two teams meet up one more time on March 18 in Tampa Bay. Labrie won't be sneaking up on Rinaldo in that game because he knows the Flyers enforcer will be ready and waiting to drop the gloves.