Stamkos, Matthews fight after Rielly crumples Point into boards
Chaos ensued in Game 3 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning as Steven Stamkos and Auston Matthews fought after Morgan Rielly crunched Brayden Point into the boards.
Point appeared to be favoring his midsection and briefly exited the game before returning.
Rielly was initially given a five-minute major for the hit, but the penalty was reduced after a review. He and Darren Raddysh were given two-minute offsetting roughing minors. Rielly said postgame that he thought the play was clean.
Ryan O'Reilly and Nikita Kucherov were also given fighting majors. Kucherov was given an extra two minutes for going after Rielly immediately after the hit, giving the Leafs a power play.
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said postgame that the Lightning took advantage of the situation to take free shots at Matthews.
"The fight itself, that's a classic example of a veteran championship team like Tampa Bay manipulating the officials and taking advantage of the situation, right?," Keefe said, according to TSN's Chris Johnston.
"I mean, they know that we're basically already going on the power play because of the Kucherov situation, so it's a free-for-all. They can do whatever they want, and they just know the way the games get called, they're not going to get another penalty."
Keefe argued that the Leafs could've received a five-on-three power play because Stamkos instigated the fight with Matthews.
"The official's literally holding Steven Stamkos with one arm, and his other hand with no glove on is punching Auston Matthews," Keefe continued. "Not the linesman; the referee who calls the penalty was holding Stamkos while this was happening. Credit to Tampa for recognizing the situation; it's a free pass to do what you want. Not only do they get out of it unscathed, but they take Matthews and O'Reilly with them to the box. Brilliant play by the Lightning there."
The fight was the first of Matthews' career and the first scrap in NHL history between two 60-goal scorers.
"Papi's gonna stand his ground," Leafs captain John Tavares said, per Sportsnet's Luke Fox.
Stamkos said the Leafs would've reacted similarly if one of their star players was on the ice in pain after a big hit.
"It's such a bang-bang play. You see one of the best players in the world go head first into the boards, there's gotta be a response," Stamkos told reporters postgame, per Bally Sports Sun. "I'd expect the same thing from their group if Mitch Marner or Matthews was in that same position."
The Leafs ended up winning the game 4-3 to take a 2-1 series lead. O'Reilly tied it up with one minute left in regulation before Rielly scored the overtime winner.