Behind the Marc-Andre Fleury-Jordan Binnington matchup, it almost happened

ST. LOUIS — Marc-Andre Fleury was getting surrounded by reporters late Wednesday night — which is what happens when you almost get into a goaltending battle.

And Fleury’s Wild goalie tandem partner Filip Gustavsson gave him some tips.

“Tell them he didn’t want to fight you,” Gustavsson said, smiling. “He was scared.”

Fleury just laughed. This game, the most entertaining of the wild season, needed no extra spice. There were plenty of juicy quotes and color from what the national television audience just witnessed. There was a hat trick. A match penalty. A wild comeback, the Wild’s 8-5 victory extended their franchise-record streak to 14 (11-0-3).

But what everyone will remember was the fight that could have been. The image of Fleury racing out to the Blues zone to go after Jordan Binnington, who had just thrown a buzzer beater to Ryan Hartman after the Wild center clipped him after his second-period goal. Fleury heard Binnington hit one of his teammates in the crotch with his stick in the first period, so when Binnington hit Hartman in the face with the pointy end of the block, the veteran goaltender had enough.

“I felt that it was mine guy,” Fleury said. “I had to take care of him.”

Fleury threw off his helmet, he rolled up his sleeves. The audience was captivated.

As Ric Flair, fittingly for the game, would say, “WOOOOOO!”

“It kind of felt like it was our moment,” Binnington said.

“Old school hockey,” Wild coach Dean Evason said.

“It would have been good for the league,” Brayden Schenn said. “People talk about that thing.”

Fleury has talked about getting into the game as one of the last things on the list of a Hall of Fame career. But veteran referees Kelly Sutherland and Gord Dwyer kept both goalkeepers out. Told them it wasn’t going to happen.

“It would have been fun,” Fleury said. “The crowd was on their feet. I’ve never had a fight in my career so that would have been pretty cool. It was a shame.”

Where do we even start with this one?

That former Blues Cup champion Oskar Sundqvist scored the equalizing goal in his return to St. Louis – and was a footnote – says all you need to know about how wild this fight was. Or the fact that defenseman Jake Middleton got sick in the afternoon, so the Wild had to rush Calen Addison to the arena, and he showed up right before warmups. The game looked to be boring, a Minnesota streak snapped as they trailed 3-1 after the first period.

Then came a first break heart to heart.

“We were frustrated,” defenseman Alex Goligoski said. “It didn’t seem like we got the rebounds and it felt like we played OK, just made mistakes and it ended up in our net. We refocused, said the right things.

“‘We’re going to win this game. Just go to work.'”

They did just that. John Klingberg started it with his first goal with Minnesota, a floating shot from the point. Then Sundqvist tied it from his office, the blue paint. And Mason Shaw continued the fourth line’s hot streak by scoring the team’s third goal in one minute and 58 seconds.

That’s when Binnington – known for his outbursts – started chirping the wild bench. Ryan Reaves and Shaw returned it.

What did he say?

“I don’t know,” Reaves said. “He had bullets in his mouth. I couldn’t understand.”

“You just knew he was going to do something at some point,” Hartman said.

Six minutes later all hell broke loose.

Hartman scored a power-play goal to give the Wild the lead for good. He tried to skate toward the corner for the celebration, but the momentum took Hartman toward a still sprawled Binnington. Hartman clipped Binnington’s pad as he tried to lift his skate over him.

Binnington immediately rose to his feet, stormed into the celebration and hit Hartman with his cane/blocking arm.

“Nothing new from him,” Hartman said. “He’s been doing something like this for a while.”

“It was a tough game,” Binnington said. “They’re a tough team to play against. They’re tough around the net and I just felt like it got to a certain point … goals were coming in so it was frustrating. I just felt like, yeah, it was the moment .”

Binnington received a five minute match penalty. He was thrown out. Still, he decided this was the moment to step up to center ice and pump up the crowd.

“I don’t know what he did,” said Reaves, who played with Binnington in St. Louis. “He just got buried, got a five-minute penalty and he’s trying to fire up the crowd? It was a weird time to fire up the crowd. Hey, appreciate the power play, I guess.”

Reaves joked on the TNT pregame show that he was on a “heater” offensively after his Gordie Howe hat trick Sunday in Arizona. And Reaves kept it going with a goal and an assist, marking the first time in his 800-plus game career he’s had back-to-back multi-point games. It is only the fourth time he has scored in a row.

“Kirill (Kaprizov) is out, I’ve got to step up. It lands on my shoulders,” Reaves said. “Everybody’s stepped up.”

The Wild have amazingly scored 17 goals in the first three games since Kaprizov was injured (putting him out 3-4 weeks). It was the eighth time in franchise history that the Wild scored eight goals in a game, and the third time on the road.

“Like we’ve been saying, ‘Who needs Kirill?'” Evason joked.

Evason said assistant Brett McLean came on at the second break and said, “Boy, there was a lot to unpack in that period.” The Wild head coach said you never want to see your goalie struggle, but he loved the idea of ​​guys sticking together. The Binnington attack and subsequent melee did not bother him.

“Old school hockey,” he said. “It looked familiar to me.”

Fleury said a few days ago that he wouldn’t mind fighting. He noted that he got into one in junior and broke his knuckle, forcing him to miss a few weeks. “It’s the end of our season so there’s no time for that,” he said. “This is not the right time to be fooling around.”

On Wednesday, he had changed his mind. It didn’t take him long to decide he wanted to go for it.

“It was pretty quick,” Fleury said. “One of the guys said (Binnington) hit ’em in the nut sack. Can I say nutty? So when I saw him throw another one at our guy, it was time.”

Reaves, one of the league’s top hitters, said he gave Fleury tips before the game in case he got into a fight. “He said he wanted it,” Reaves said. “Those two have gone back and forth. I wish the refs would have let him go.”

“You would have just loved to see that — Binner vs. Marc-Andre Fleury on TNT,” Schenn said. “If you’re looking for ratings and ratings and people talking about the game … that’s one way to do it.”

(Photo: Joe Puetz / NHLI via Getty Images)

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