The Washington Times - March 16, 2013, 07:46PM

BOSTON | Brad Marchand has quite the reputation for instigating. Call him a gnat, call him an agitator because some around the NHL call him worse.

On Saturday against the Washington Capitals, the Boston Bruins forward did what he does best, starting a chain reaction that led to three fights and 32 penalty minutes. Marchand appeared to grab Mike Ribeiro’s jersey and goad him into fighting with 19 seconds left in the second period and the Bruins leading the Caps 3-1.

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It was Ribeiro’s first career NHL fight and first of any kind since 1998 against Brad Richards while playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Marchand gets the credit for that bit of history.

“There’s players in the league that do that and there’s players that don’t,” Caps defenseman John Carlson said. “That’s all.”

Coach Adam Oates said he didn’t see what happened with Ribeiro and Marchand. Everyone saw what happened eight seconds later when Washington forward Matt Hendricks dropped the gloves with the Bruins’ Nathan Horton. Hendricks had tried to fight Horton or enforcer Shawn Thornton earlier in the period.

I won’t comment on it,” Thornton said. “I think everybody saw it; that’s probably enough. I’m not going to make any more comments on it.”

Horton, who had a goal and two assists before getting involved in any of the rough stuff, said he and Hendricks “kept running into each other.”

I don’t know how that was, but every time I was swinging back around or something we always bumped into each other,” Horton said.

Then, the Bruins forward seemed to indicate he wanted to spar with Hendricks eight seconds after Marchand fought Ribeiro.

I was yelling at him. Like, three times I yelled at him and he didn’t look at me,” Horton said. “And then, kind of, he just sprinted at me. He kind of caught me with my gloves there. Or, maybe he did hear me. I just didn’t think he did because he wasn’t looking at me.”

Horton has missed significant time in recent years with concussion problems, though no Bruins player specifically brought that up as a reason why they were unhappy with Hendricks fighting him.

But Hendricks was clearly a target midway through the third period. Thornton tried to get Hendricks to drop the gloves, and defenseman Adam McQuaid also approached the Caps forward.

I saw Thorty challenging him, and I was there as well, so he looked like he didn’t want to go with Thorty so I gave him a second option, and I guess he didn’t want Thorty, so he made a smart decision going to me,” McQuaid said.

After the 4-1 loss, the Caps made it clear they didn’t appreciate Thornton and McQuaid ganging up on Hendricks.

That’s the biggest joke I’ve ever seen, in my opinion,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “The fact that they let those guys corner a guy like that. For all they know Hendy had a broken hand and he can’t fight. If we would’ve done that to [Bruins star Tyler] Seguin, you know, [John Erskine] and Hendy? You think they would’ve let that happen? It’s questionable, very questionable.”

Oates didn’t like it, either.

I think that’s wrong. That’s wrong,” Oates said. “He clearly didn’t want to fight Thornton and the other guy came over and makes it for a very difficult situation. I think the referees could’ve probably handled it a little quicker.”

Hendricks’ right hand was bleeding and he went down the tunnel for medical attention after fighting McQuaid. He did not return, and Oates did not have an update on his condition.

The Bruins considered it a matter of team unity to fight.

When you got a tough team, everybody’s got each other’s back. I think that was a big game for us in that way and getting everybody going,” Horton said. “We stick together. It doesn’t matter who it is. Everybody has each other’s back.”