Pat Maroon is one of the toughest guys in the NHL, and in almost every game, he finds some opponent to argue with. Last night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was no exception, but it was unusual because the game-long battle was against a goalie.
It was late in the second that Maroon got into a scrum with Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins after they traded slashes. As a result, Maroon was sent to the penalty box for both slashing and roughing at 20:00 of the second, and at the same time, Merzlikins was whistled for slashing. Columbus Blue Jackets took advantage of the power play, as they scored just 15 seconds into the third to make it a 3-1 game.
But it was only the beginning of the battle between Maroon and Merzlikins. With just 20 seconds to play off the game, Maroon skated up to Merzlikins and said some well-chosen words, but it ended with him being shoved away by Blue Jackets players. But afterward, Merzlikins told reporters that Maroon had asked him for a fight.
Maroon is not a tiny guy, and Merzlikins respectfully said no. His explanation for it is awesome, and it turns out he had his national team in mind.
“Obviously, I declined it because there was just one minute left and, I’m going to be honest, I have maybe zero chances against him,” Merzlikins said. “Maybe with somebody else I would go, but with him, no.”
“Call me soft, whatever you want. I’m gonna take it. I have the World Championships to go to (next month). I’m not gonna break my nose or something else.”
Merzlikins doesn’t whine a lot, and he had just respect for the Tampa players, despite the slashes in the second period.
“This is just hockey,” Merzlikins said. “He slash me once, I slash him back. He slash me again. I slash him again, and that’s what happens. There’s nothing … I don’t think there’s anything bad. I respect those guys. They’re great hockey players. What can I do now? I can just wish them luck in the playoffs.”