Right off the faceoff following an Austin Watson short-handed goal that put the Predators up 3-0 late in the second period, Johansen and Kesler were opposite one another at centre ice. Words were exchanged and the two dropped the mitts.
The fight didn’t last too long as Johansen appeared to lose his balance and as the two were escorted off the ice Kesler made a gesture accusing Johansen of turtling.
Kesler is among a handful of NHL stars with an uncanny ability to get under the skin of his opponents and Johansen found that out first hand in the spring of 2017.
“He just blows my mind. I don’t know what’s going through his head out there,” Johansen said at the time following a heated Game 2 of the Western Conference final. “His family and friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that. It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey, and it sucks when you have to pull a stick out of your groin after every shift.”
To that, Kesler responded: “Doesn’t matter. He’s not my friend, he’s not going to be my friend, so he can say whatever he wants. Obviously I know he doesn’t like it now and I’m not gonna let up just because he said something.”
The Preds went on to win Thursday’s game 4-2. Nashville and Anaheim don’t play each other again this regular season, however a potential playoff matchup is well within the realm of possibility.