'Goon squad' lineups touch off melee

Updated: January 20, 2014, 4:31 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Canucks and Calgary Flames engaged in a wild first-period brawl Saturday night that carried over to Canucks coach John Tortorella being involved in an altercation in the hallway outside the Flames' dressing room.

The opening minutes of the NHL game, which the Canucks won 3-2 in a shootout, was like a scene from the movie "Slap Shot." It brought back memories of when teams such as the Broad Street Bullies and Big Bad Boston Bruins hit the ice.

[+] EnlargeVancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames
Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY SportsThe Canucks and Flames dropped their gloves just 2 seconds into play, resulting in 142 penalty minutes in the first 5 minutes of the game.

"I don't think anybody expected that," said Flames defenseman Chris Butler, one of eight players ejected from the game.

"It's been a while since something like that happened, five guys pairing off."

An NHL official told ESPN.com on Sunday morning that the league is investigating the incident.

"Details when and if appropriate," the source said.

For his part, Tortorella will have an in-person hearing with Colin Campbell, the NHL's executive vice president of hockey operations, and other league officials on Monday, a source confirmed to ESPN.com.

The bad blood wasn't confined to the ice. At the end of the first period, CBC, which televised the game, captured Tortorella attempting to go into the Flames' locker room at Rogers Arena. Calgary enforcer Brian McGrattan pushed him away.

Flames goaltender coach Clint Malarchuk came out of the Flames' dressing room after Tortorella and McGrattan were separated. Malarchuk followed Tortorella but was restrained by several members of Calgary's staff and McGrattan.

Much of the altercation appeared off camera, but another camera showed Vancouver defenseman Chris Tanev pulling teammate Alex Burrows back toward the Canucks' dressing room.

Flames coach Bob Hartley was left shaking his head over Tortorella charging his team's dressing room.

"I just don't understand," he said. "I got out of there. I don't need to get suspended or fined.

"There is nothing to be settled there. I just don't understand what was going on."

The Flames raised a red flag by putting their fourth line on the ice to start the game. The Canucks countered with their tough guys.

Game on.

Defenseman Kevin Bieksa took the opening draw for Vancouver, and a line brawl broke out as soon as the puck was dropped.

Just 2 seconds had ticked off the clock when all five skaters from each team taking the opening faceoff dropped their gloves and began throwing punches.

McGrattan was left bloodied in a fight with Vancouver tough guy Tom Sestito. After the fight Sestito patted McGrattan on the back of the head.

Minor league call-up Kellan Lain's first game as a Canuck was brief. He was tossed for fighting with Calgary's Kevin Westgarth, who has no points in 21 games for the Flames.

Also receiving game misconducts were Vancouver forward Dale Weise plus defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Jason Garrison. For Calgary, it was Westgarth, Blair Jones, Ladislav Smid and Butler.

"They started their goon squad over there," said Sestito, who leads the NHL with 167 penalty minutes in 47 games. "I just don't think we're going to be backing down from guys.

"Torts told us they were starting their idiots over there so we had to match that."

Sestito and McGrattan remained in the game.

In the aftermath of the brawl, Tortorella could be seen yelling at the Flames' bench and Hartley.

"It's great that he [Tortorella] has our back," Sestito said.

Later in the period, Calgary's Mark Giordano punched Burrows in the face. Burrows was wearing a face mask to protect a broken jaw. It was his first game since Dec. 1.

Tortorella made no apologies for the lineup he started.

"I know the other guy across the bench," he said. "It's easy for people to say, 'Well, put the Sedins out there and it's deflated.' I can't put our players at risk like that.

"With the lineup that he had, I'm not going to put those types of players at risk, and that's what ensued. I'm not proud of it. I've apologized to every one of the players involved in it. I don't feel great about it at all."

Hartley also defended his starting lineup.

"Those guys are playing well for us," he said. "They got a goal last game. We're not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there.

"As far as I know, they were the home team. They had the luxury to put whoever they wanted on the ice."

The teams combined for 188 penalty minutes in the first period -- 142 penalty minutes in the first five minutes of the game and smaller skirmishes throughout the opening period. Calgary's Shane O'Brien and Vancouver's Zack Kassian each received 10-minute misconducts later in the period. A total of 204 penalty minutes were logged Saturday night.

Tortorella declined to answer questions about potential disciplinary actions, although he likely will receive either a hefty fine, a suspension or both.

The fiery coach has been fined multiple times for some particularly colorful postgame tirades. He has was suspended in 2009, while with the New York Rangers, for throwing a water bottle at a fan during a game against the Washington Capitals.

This was not the first time Tortorella encountered a situation like Saturday night. He blasted Devils coach Pete DeBoer from the bench after DeBoer started his fourth line against Tortorella's Rangers in 2012, an uncannily similar incident in which Tortorella matched with his tough guys -- having rugged defenseman Stu Bickel take the opening draw -- and a line brawl ensued.

ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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