Not afforded the luxury of instant replay, Neal Pionk thought he was just being a good teammate.
The Rangers defenseman was skating back to cover Coyotes winger Christian Fischer on Friday night when the two got tangled going hard to the net, which resulted in Henrik Lundqvist getting knocked onto his back.
Pionk immediately went after Fischer and dropped his gloves for his first career fight. Both were assessed five-minute penalties while Pionk got an extra two for unsportsmanlike conduct, which opened the door for the Coyotes to score their first of four unanswered goals in a 4-3 win.
“Originally, in the split-second decision that I made, I thought [Fischer] ran into Hank,” Pionk said Saturday. “After watching the replay, I realized it was more so me. But in those one to two seconds where I made the decision, I couldn’t watch a replay, so I thought something else happened and that’s the way it went.”
Coach David Quinn appreciated the sentiment, if not the timing of the fight.
“That’s a guy who you certainly love the fact that he wants to defend a teammate, but you’ve also got to understand the situation and ramifications of that,” Quinn said. “It’s a mistake that you accept.”
For Pionk, it was important to show he had Lundqvist’s back, even if replays later showed he was actually the one that bumped into the goalie.
“It’s huge,” Pionk said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, we’re all wearing the same jersey. Someone takes a cheap shot or takes liberties on our guys, the other team’s got to know that we don’t appreciate it.”
Quinn said Pionk was called for unsportsmanlike conduct because the referees didn’t want to give him an instigator penalty, which would have added a 10-minute misconduct.