With the Leafs trailing the the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 midway through the third period, the Toronto captain took it upon himself to provide a spark to his listless team and a frustrated crowd.
Phaneuf began the sequence by delivering a clean, but hard check that sent Jordan Staal to the ground in Carolina's zone.
The Leafs' blueliner then circled around the net only to be greeted by Jordan's angry older brother Eric, who just so happen to be Carolina's leaders.
Quite fittingly, a battle of captains ensued.
The fight seemed inevitable in many ways as Eric and Dion had been engaging in "polite conversation" throughout the game.
On social media, Phaneuf was applauded by some fans for what was seen as his best contribution since joining the Leafs in 2009.
While others weren't able to draw any positives from Phaneufs' last-ditch attempt to wake up the Toronto side.
On a night when three jerseys were thrown on the ice at Air Canada Centre, Eric Staal ended up having the last laugh in a 4-1 victory for the Hurricanes.
Eric put the game out of reach with a slap shot past Phaneuf and into an empty net that had been abandoned in favour of an extra attacker.
He then glared at Phaneuf before skating away.