– One of the Red Wings’ top scorers, and the least likely to drop his gloves, Pavel Datsyuk
was thrilled to earn his first career ‘Gordie Howe’ hat trick.
“I’m happy to have a ‘Gordie Howe’ hat trick, but it’s not my best dream,” Datsyuk said.
Though it wasn’t pretty, the veteran center held his own in a third-period fight Friday against an experienced pugilist, Anaheim forward Corey Perry. The rare hat trick – a goal, assist and a fighting-major in the same game – is named for the Red Wings’ legend, who was known for his scoring touch and toughness.
With the Red Wings in command, and en route to a 4-0 season-opening victory at Joe Louis Arena, Datsyuk jumped into a scrum to protect his Euro Twin partner, Henrik Zetterberg
, who himself had a goal, assist and a roughing penalty.
But Datsyuk is commonly known for his scoring prowess and sportsmanship, which has earned him four of the last five Lady Byng trophies, given annually to the player who best displays gentlemanly conduct.
Wings coach Mike Babcock said that he’d prefer not to see his top-scorer in fisticuffs, and Datsyuk assured the media afterwards that it won’t become a habit.
“Now that I’ve won the Lady Byng,” Datsyuk joked, “I can open my mind. But not too much, don’t worry.”
The Datsyuk-Perry scrap was the result of a devastating open-ice hit delivered by Zetterberg on a delayed penalty. Once play was stopped, the Ducks went after Zetterberg, and Perry squared off with Datsyuk, who held his own by throwing several right hands that landed.
Dan Cleary said that most wouldn’t like to see one of the world’s top players risking their health by fighting a guy like Perry, who is four-inches taller than the Wings’ center, and has much more combative experience.
“I think he proved to the hockey world today that this is a guy who stands up for himself; very strong,” Cleary said. “He’s got a lot of heart. I don’t know about you, but I think for us as teammates, and I think fans, really enjoyed that.”
The fight was reminiscent of Datsyuk’s playoff tussle with former Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer in Game 6 of the 2009 Western Conference semifinals at Honda Center.
Friday’s sold-out JLA crowd cheered throughout the fight and upped the noise once Datsyuk’s number was posted on the scoreboard next to the ‘5:00’ for fighting.
Asked if the fight with Datsyuk caught him by surprise, Perry said, “No, I think we know he’s an intense player. Those things happen during a game.”