You had a feeling this was going to happen.
Ryan Johansen on one side. Ryan Kesler on the other. On the heels of the Nashville Predators taking a 3-0 lead on a shorthanded goal by Austin Watson, and with two men with a firey history dating back to last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the gloves finally came off near the end of the second period on Thursday night.
The dislike for one another dates back to last year’s Western Conference Final. Johansen took exception to Kesler’s trademark agitating style, calling him out in a post-game interview following Game 2 by questioning how he could play like he does in front of his family and friends.
“He just blows my mind. I don’t know what’s going through his head out there,” Johansen said. “His family and friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that. It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey, and it sucks when you have to pull a stick out of your groin after every shift.”
“He’s not my friend, he’s not going to be my friend, so he can say whatever he wants,” Kesler said in response. “Obviously, I know he doesn’t like it now and I’m not gonna let up just because he said something.”
Given Kesler’s track record as a No. 2 disturber, likely took it as a compliment at the time. If getting under Johansen’s skin was the objective, Kesler had accomplished the mission.
Johansen was able to swing one right hand in (it missed) before Kesler took over and Johansen turtled, to which Kesler made sure everyone in the arena knew what just transpired.
The scrap seemed to give the Ducks the jolt they needed. Rickard Rakell pulled the Ducks to 3-2 in the third period, but that’s as close as they came. Nashville sent the Ducks packing (quacking?) en route to their 10th straight win.
Kesler got a spot of revenge and a nice meme, but Johansen got the last laugh. Again.