After falling behind 3-1 to the New York Islanders Thursday, Calgary's Dion Phaneuf changed the momentum of the game with a single play that will be seen on highlight reels for weeks.
The Flames bruising defenseman laid a open-ice hit on Kyle Okposo that sent the forward to the ground in a heap.
“He cut through the middle and kind of fumbled the puck and I stepped up,” explained Phaneuf.
“I definitely thought it was a clean hit but you never like to see guys get hurt. From what our doctors say he’ll be okay so that’s a good thing.”
While the hit was seen as clean by Phaneuf and the Flames, the Islanders were enraged when it became apparent Okposo was injured.
All ten players on the ice, including goaltenders Miikka Kiprusoff and Martin Biron, pushed and shoved while medics attended to Okposo. It went as far as New York winger Pascal Morency jumping over the boards to defend his teammate.
“Yeah, he came off the bench … that’s the league’s job to handle that. I’m sure they’ll take care of that.”
Okposo was attended to for over six minutes before medics were able to get him on a stretcher and off the ice.
After the game, Phaneuf’s teammates backed him up.
“You don’t want people to get hurt but he is a physical defenseman,” said Olli Jokinen.
“If you look at the replay, you don’t see anything wrong with the hit.”
For Phaneuf, those kind of hits are all part of a days work.
“That’s part of my job. When the hits are there, I’m going to take them. I've got to play that physical style. Any time you can contribute, whether it’s a hit, scoring a goal or keeping one out of your net you want to do it.”
Head coach Brent Sutter indicated that word they had received from doctors was that Okposo would be okay.
He also defended the hit.
"You don't want to see people get hurt but Dion can't pass up that hit," said Sutter.
The Flames came back in the game and registered a 5-4 win in a shootout and are now 1-1-0 in the preseason. They meet the Islanders again on Saturday in Saskatoon.