The Tampa Bay Lightning's Radko Gudas has had a lot of firsts this season after being called up from the Syracuse Crunch. He played his first NHL game, making his debut in Sunrise against the Florida Panthers on March 13th. He's scored his first NHL goal, first NHL assist and now he can add his first NHL fight to his accomplishments.
Just call it a slow motion Gordie Howe hat-trick.
The first period between the Devils and Lightning on Friday was a physical one. It got even more physical when Tampa Bay right winger Richard Panik was dumped down to the ice by New Jersey center Tim Sestito
That sparked Gudas, the throwback, gritty defensemen, to do something. Gudas buzzed in Sestito's ear but Gudas ended up dropping the mitts with Tom Kostopoulos.
At first, Gudas didn't even know who he was fighting. According to Gudas, he saw a Devil's player drop his stick and it was basically each man for himself at that point.
"I was pretty fired up and I talked to Sestito because he hit Panik so I was yelling at him," Gudas said. "The guy who I fought I didn't even know his name, he just turned around and dropped his stick and I was like alright let's go with this guy."
At 12:09 of the first period, Gudas dropped his stick, took the gloves off, and started throwing right hooks. Kostopoulos got in a few for himself, but ultimately, Gudas was on the winning end of the battle throwing Kostopoulos to the ice first.
Gudas isn't just a fighter. He is a responsible, two-way defensemen that won't let fights get in the way of important plays developing on the ice. This was evident in Tampa Bay's win over Buffalo earlier in the week.
Sabres center Steve Ott pestered Gudas the entire night, even trying to fight at one point. Gudas has hockey sense though. He isn't going to be careless.
"One time in that game I didn't want to drop the gloves with him because of the play that was developing," Gudas said. "It just wasn't the right time.
The timing was right on Friday.
"This game was scoreless and it was early in the game," Gudas said. "Not much was going on and I had to do something to get the boys going."
Gudas is no stranger to rallying his team by getting into fisticuffs. Before being promoted to the Lightning, Gudas had 13 fights in Syracuse. In the 2011-2012 season, he had 11 with the Norfolk Admirals.