In a game filled with controversial calls and plays, it was the one everyone was talking about afterwards: A punch-up between Toronto Maple Leafs winger Nikolai Kulemin and Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Tim Gleason that involved a shoving match, one combatant with his gloves still on and what appeared to be a badly broken nose.
While Leafs coach Ron Wilson called the altercation a fight, some of Kulemin's teammates didn't see the match-up between one player who had never fought before and another with 33 NHL fighting majors as being all that clear cut.
"I was disgusted with that," Kulemin's linemate Clarke MacArthur said. "There's certain match-ups on the ice and I don't care what [Gleason] says, you know when you're in the right match-up. A guy like Kulemin's never been a guy to fight and Gleason does it a lot. He knows better than that."
Gleason received a five-minute major and a game misconduct on the play, which came right at the end of the first period in what turned into a 6-4 win for the Hurricanes. Kulemin received only a minor for roughing and didn't return to the game.
"I didn't agree with it," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said of the call. "Only because Timmy had taken two or three punches to the face area. That's usually an invitation for a guy like that. Clearly the guy that he hit doesn't fight a lot and maybe he felt that that was okay ... They were face to face at the time.
"I think he was penalized for the result, not the act."
As per usual, the Leafs didn't provide much of an injury update after the game, saying only that Kulemin suffered a facial injury. (No kidding.) Given the force of the blow, a concussion may also be a possibility, and at the very least, he could be playing with a full face shield for a while.
It seems highly unlikely Kulemin will play Tuesday night in Tampa, the Leafs' final game before a six-day all-star break.
"Well, they were in a fight," Wilson said. "He got it right in the face. The appropriate action happened. It wasn't a sucker punch or anything. Kulie was throwing punches with his gloves on and Gleason dropped his gloves and beat him to the punch."
Kulemin's teammates disagreed with their coach's take, however.
"I thought it was a pretty cheap shot on Kulie there," defenceman Tomas Kaberle said. "Obviously [Gleason] got his penalties and a game misconduct, but ... It's tough when you don't expect it. There was a scrum going on beside him and he didn't expect the guy to punch him. That's the way it goes sometimes. We haven't seen a replay very well so it's something we'll look at afterwards."
"I think Kulie just went in there to stick up for teammates," MacArthur said. "Gleason obviously isn't that smart, so. It was pretty cheap. Kulie didn't drop his gloves and you know he gets suckered like that. I don't know. I mean I have to look at it again I guess. It's tough losing him. Not a great trade off for us."
MacArthur was then asked if there's a code in that situation.
"There should be," he said. "He's not a fighter. Gleason knows he's not a fighter. We've got a couple more games here [this season against Carolina] so we'll see. Obviously we want to come back hard against these guys so we'll see what happens."
MacArthur's first fight
In what surprisingly turned into a bit of a scrappy game, even with all the questionable penalties called, MacArthur had his first career fighting major against Chad LaRose.
It's a bit of a surprise he hasn't earned it earlier given he's been mixing it up after the whistle often this season, but at only 6-foot and 190 pounds, he's not exactly built for that role either.
"It just kind of from the end of last game against these guys [in late December], LaRose, we were kind of getting into it," MacArthur said. "I wanted to kind of settle it tonight and that's what happened."
Fourth line leads way
If there was any positive in what was a mess of a game for Toronto, it was the fourth line, as Tim Brent had two goals and an assist in the third period and sparked a brief comeback. Wilson praised the line of Fredrik Sjostrom, Brent and Mike Brown, saying he gave them ice time on a late power play because his scorers weren't getting anything done.
"We had opportunities," Wilson said. "We got ourselves back in the game and at the end of the night, our best line was our fourth line guys and a lot of other guys really didn't get the job done.
"That's why I put the fourth line out [on the power play] and they scored. So hopefully the message will get across to everybody. You've got to work when you're on the power play. Everybody's got to be responsible for digging the puck out, not it's three other guys' job but not mine. You've got to had five guys really desperate when we go out for a power play and we didn't have that early in the game tonight."
Given what happened on the ice, the comments appeared to be directed at least partially at Phil Kessel, who had one assist and was minus-2 but looked disinterested at times with the man advantage.
"I mean we had some shots," Kessel said. "I don't think it was that bad. We've just got to make a little better opportunities for us. Get a little more set up there.
"I mean it's hard to score goals in this league. When you get a 5-on-3, you really got to make the best of it. I thought we had good chances, we've just got to be better."Report Typo/Error