DETROIT - Battling Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin dodged a suspension for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final for instigating a late third-period fight.
Colin Campbell ruled that Malkin was neither trying to send a message or trying to get even with Henrik Zetterberg when he started a free-swinging bout with the Detroit captain with 19 seconds left in the Red Wings 3-1 victory in Game 2 of the best-of-seven final on Sunday night.
League rules call for a player who instigates a fight in the final five minutes to be suspended for one game, pending a review. Campbell issued a statement that said there would be no suspension in this case.
"Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight," the statement said. "A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident.
"Neither was the case here and therefore the one game suspension is rescinded."
In the Eastern Conference semifinals, Campbell also rescinded the suspension and let Carolina's Scott Walker off with only a US$2,500 fine after he sucker-punched Boston's Aaron Ward late in a game.
Campbell, the league's director of hockey operations, noted that Malkin should have got a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down.
Malkin opted not to talk to the media after the game.
With Pittsburgh pressing for a goal in the dying seconds of a game in which they outshot and largely outplayed Detroit, Penguins pesky winger Maxime Talbot appeared to jab at goaltender Chris Osgood's midsection after he corralled a puck in his crease.
Zettterberg shoved Talbot and Malkin came around the net, grabbed Zetterberg and threw the first blow in what became a wild bout between scoring stars. Malkin missed with a roundhouse right and lost his jersey as Zetterberg moved in with shorter blows and looked to get the better of the skirmish.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Malkin didn't deserve a suspension because "they were punching each other.
"He didn't take his gloves off, so that doesn't make a fight."
Talbot said he was jabbing at the puck, not Osgood.
"The puck was there - I tried to poke at it as soon as I could," he said, adding that he saw the Malkin-Zetterberg bout only on replay after the game.
"It's great, Gino plays with emotion. Guys are stepping up and he wants to be part of that. He's really intense and that's good."
Zetterberg said it just old-time playoff hockey.
"In the playoffs and finals like this, there's a lot of emotions, a lot of feelings," he said. "When you get scrums, that's the way it is."