Maybe he thought he was playing baseball.
Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin was ejected from his team’s game against the Flyers on Monday night after he took a full-on swing toward the back of Philadelphia forward Michael Raffl’s head, adding an ugly chapter to the teams’ cross-state rivalry.
The veteran will have a hearing with the NHL on Tuesday and could face suspension or a hefty fine.
The play occurred late in the third period, with the Penguins holding a commanding 4-0 lead and just five minutes left on the clock. As Malkin and Raffl were battling for the puck near the glass, Raffl landed a punch to the back of Malkin’s head. Malkin responded by taking a one-handed swing at Raffl, who luckily was able to duck out of the way enough to avoid a direct hit.
Malkin was assessed with a match penalty and removed from the game, leaving the Penguins shorthanded for the rest of the match. Raffl was not penalized for his punch.
The Flyers scored 20 seconds later on a Jakub Voracek goal, although Pittsburgh still won 4-1.
“I know I was not playing smart with five minutes left, but it’s only like one point,” Malkin told reporters after the game. “I know it was dirty, but I missed my stick and I touched his, like, shoulder to shoulder, I don’t know.
“Everyone was like give me five minutes. It wasn’t dangerous, he wasn’t bleeding or anything. I know it gave them a five-minute power play and it was my fault for sure, but just play smart next time.”
Malkin has not been suspended in his 13-year NHL career, although he was fined $5,000 in 2018 for spearing Kings forward Dustin Brown.