Hathaway spit on defenseman Erik Gudbranson during a brawl late in the second period, with referee Peter MacDougall standing a few feet away. Officials reviewed video before confirming the five-minute match penalty that triggers a game misconduct.
"That's about as low as you dig a pit, really," Gudbranson said. "It's a bad thing to do. It's something you just don't do in a game, and he did it."
Here's a look at the festivities. pic.twitter.com/OLMbYQ5aeG— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) November 19, 2019
By the way, here's the reason for the match penalty for Garnet Hathaway. pic.twitter.com/e3W97zFSKV— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) November 19, 2019
Hathaway said he regretted the incident, which could spark further punishment from the NHL in the form of a fine or suspension.
"Unfortunately, spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker-punched, and it went onto him," Hathaway said. "It has no place. It was an emotional play by me. You don't plan any of that stuff in your head, and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me to a sucker punch."
Asked if he expected further discipline, Hathaway said, "I think time will tell with that.''
Tempers flared in the first 40 minutes between Washington and Anaheim and boiled over with 33.4 seconds remaining in the second period. Capitals forward Brendan Leipsic bulldozed the Ducks' Derek Grant behind the net, sparking several fights between the teams' fourth lines.
Almost all 10 skaters on the ice got involved, and Hathaway fought Gudbranson, Grant and Nick Ritchie during the scrum before he was thrown out. Ritchie was also ejected for being the third man into a fight, and a total of 50 penalty minutes were doled out.
"It just escalated," Guhle said. "It for sure was in the works. There were scrums all night. Guys were going after each other. That's how it goes sometimes."
Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said he had never experienced one player spitting at another during a game.
"These games can get physical, and they can get nasty," Eakins said. "These guys'll throw down, drop their gloves. That stuff goes on in the game, but what I saw there I haven't seen; I think I've been in pro hockey 30 years, maybe, and I've never seen that before. It's just something you don't see in the game."
The Ducks were angry at Hathaway for what they called disrespectful behavior but didn't want to speculate on what might happen next. They're off to the next stop on their road trip, and the Capitals don't know if they'll have Hathaway for their game Wednesday at the New York Rangers.
Eakins called it above his pay grade. Gudbranson said, "I have no idea. I'll trust the league with that.''
Boston Bruins agitator extraordinaire Brad Marchand was warned during the playoffs for licking opponents but was not suspended. There's little precedent for Hathaway's action, other than the part of the rulebook that deems it worthy of an ejection and the league's process of having its hockey operations department review each match penalty.
Washington is already up against the salary cap, with the minimum 12 forwards and six defensemen healthy. If Hathaway is suspended, it could wreak havoc on the Capitals' roster.
"It seems like it's been a constant equation for us the last little while here," coach Todd Reirden said. "[We'll] see where we're at in terms of injured players and [the] potential situation here with whatever the league does. It's out of my hands now.''
The fighting and Hathaway's spitting overshadowed the NHL-leading Capitals winning their second in a row and picking up at least one point for the 14th time in 15 games. Alex Ovechkin scored his 254th career power-play goal. Richard Panik, Stephenson and Jakub Vrana also scored, Wilson sealed it with an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 32 saves for Washington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.