It’s special to play your first game in the NHL, and it’s even more special to drop the gloves with one of the toughest guys in the league in your debut. That’s what happened to Dmitry Voronkov in his first-ever league game with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
By now, players in the league have learned not to mess with Canadiens’ Arber Xhekaj. The defenseman, who went undrafted twice and worked at Costco just two years ago, has become a huge fan favorite in Montreal for his toughness, fighting, and work ethic.
Xhekaj is a hard hitter and an even tougher fighter, and he proved it earlier this season by dropping the mitts with enforcer Ryan Reaves.
When a team plays the Canadiens, they know they’ll get Xhekaj after them if something nasty happens, but Dmitry Voronkov didn’t care about that as he was involved in a testy incident just less than five minutes into his debut.
Arber Xhekaj was drilled into the boards from behind by the rookie, and he didn’t like it one bit. Xhekaj immediately decided to teach Voronkov a lesson, as he dropped the gloves as soon as he got up.
Voronkov eventually got his off as well but didn’t have much to do against Xhekaj. Xhekaj decided to throw an extra couple of swings at Voronkov after he went down on the ice.
Both players had to spend seven minutes in the penalty box afterward. Voronkov got two for roughing, Xhekaj got two for retaliation, and five each for fighting.
Voronkov didn’t just fight in his debut. He managed to pick up an assist to Columbus’ 3-1 goal in the game, but after two straight Canadiens goals, the game went to overtime, where Cole Caufield decided the game for the Canadiens.