Toronto’s Darcy Tucker and Chad Kilger were at the centre of the storm in the 6-2 Ottawa victory – Tucker for attacking Senators non-fighter Patrick Eaves and Kilger for spearing Ottawa’s Christoph Schubert.
Both incidents occurred during the second period. After the game, Senators general manager John Muckler called the Tucker incident “a cowardly act,” and Ottawa’s players were still upset about it Wednesday morning after practice in preparation for Thursday’s rematch at Scotiabank Place.
“You definitely don’t like to see stuff like that happen,” Senators right-winger Chris Neil said. “Patrick Eaves never fought a day in his life. He’s a guy who goes out, a happy-go-lucky guy who works hard. Tucker obviously did his homework in between periods and knows he doesn’t fight.”
In fact, Eaves had never previously been involved in an NHL fight.
Tucker didn’t have much of a response Wednesday after he was informed of Muckler’s comment following the Leafs’ practice.
The winger said he wasn’t upset about it and when asked if he thought the Senators’ GM was just trying to stir things up, he told reporters, “I have no idea. No clue.”
The Leafs trailed 5-1 when Tucker took on Eaves midway through the second. He received a roughing minor in addition to five minutes for fighting.
“We were pretty frustrated,” said Tucker. “That’s maybe what led to the physical stuff.”
Toronto defenceman Bryan McCabe also paid little attention to Muckler’s comments, which were reported in the Ottawa Sun.
“Whatever. He doesn’t play the games. We do,” McCabe said.
Toronto coach Paul Maurice thought Eaves, who had checked Tucker before the play, was fair game.
“I think if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound,” Maurice said. “If you’re going to finish a check with anger, you don’t get the option to stay out (of fights).”
Senators coach Bryan Murray agreed with that thinking and, for his part, even the six-foot, 192-pound Eaves preferred to downplay the incident.
He seemed slightly sheepish about the whole thing when surrounded by reporters Wednesday. The 22-year-old said he hasn’t had a fight since he was a 16-or -17-year-old junior and doesn’t see himself getting into too many more in the future.
“It was just part of the play. It just kind of happened and it’s over and done with. Time to move on,” he said. “I don’t think I’m much of a fighter.”
The Senators also weren’t impressed with Kilger, who speared Schubert in the groin after the Ottawa defenceman tripped the Leafs winger.
“I didn’t really trip him on purpose, I’ve got to be honest. I was falling down and next thing I see, I just got a stick in my two lovely friends,” said Schubert, whose account of the incident made reporters burst out in laughter.
“I don’t know what made (Kilger) so upset to spear me. If I get a chance tomorrow to ask him, I’d want to know why he would do it, but it’s fine with me. I’m all OK. I’m not hurt or anything, but it’s just interesting for me what’s sometimes going on in other guys’ heads.”
Kilger received a minor for roughing on the play. Schubert received two minutes for tripping and a lecture from referee Bill McCreary.
“(McCreary) was yelling at me that I should get up and stop being an actor,” Schubert said. “But he apologized in the third period.”
However, the Senators insist they won’t be looking for revenge anywhere other than on the scoreboard. After a slow start to the season, Ottawa has erupted for 14 goals in its last two games to even its record at 4-4-0.
“You really can’t go out and do that kind of stuff,” Neil said. “You can’t put your team behind – give them the power play and the opportunity. That’s what Tucker wants. That’s where he gets all his points. He just wants to go out and draw a penalty and that’s his job. He’s done it his whole career and everyone knows him and knows what he’s like out there, so you’ve just got to go out and if he’s in your way, you hit him and finish your check and put some numbers up on the scoreboard and that’s how you hurt them the most.”
The Senators are also a little leery about getting too confident against the Leafs. After winning the season-opener in Toronto, they were embarrassed 6-0 by the Leafs in the home opener at Scotiabank Place.
“That’s something we’ve got to keep in our minds,” said Ray Emery, who will take his league-leading 1.48 goals-against average and .952 save percentage into Ottawa’s net Thursday in place of Tuesday’s starter Martin Gerber.
“It’s always an emotional matchup a they’ve got some guys that are agitators and that’s no secret.”
CP Sports writer Neil Stevens contributed to this report