BUFFALO — It was a night that should have celebrated the two goals each by Milan Lucic and Torey Krug, a night that should have included discussion of Chad Johnson’s first start of the season and Jarome Iginla’s near-miss on his first goal of the season.
Instead, thanks to John Scott’s elbow to the head of Loui Eriksson, the night turned for the Bruins and Sabres as the ugly side of hockey reared its head.
A little less than six minutes into the third period, Eriksson was coming down the left side with the puck. He had passed it off at the center line when Scott came charging toward him, his elbow meeting Eriksson’s face in what looked like a flagrant attempt to injure.
Eriksson spun around as he went down to the ice, and was later helped off and into the dressing room by Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg. He did not return.
“Obviously if he didn’t come back it’s serious enough,” coach Claude Julien said after the Bruins’ 5-2 win over Buffalo at the First Niagara Center. “We’re giving the trainers the space to deal with that stuff.”
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli issued a statement efter the game: “Loui is staying overnight in Buffalo for precautionary reasons. He is expected to return to Boston on Thursday.”
Scott does not have a good reputation in hockey, a five-to-six minute-a-game player who embodies the rougher side of the game. And that was not lost on the Bruins, including Adam McQuaid, who immediately fought the bigger Scott.
“I think that’s always been a part of our strength is we’ve always shown that, whether it’s sticking up for yourself or your teammate, the response is always going to be there,” Lucic said. “It was definitely the right response. Kudos to Quaider to stepping up, especially against a guy like that. It’s never easy and never fun.”
Scott received a match penalty for the head shot.
“The referees called it the way I guess everybody saw it,” Julien said. “It’s unfortunate, but the guy who did it did his job tonight. He’s out there for two reasons: That’s either to fight or hurt.’’
Asked if the hit reminded him of Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard that ended the Bruin’s career, Julien said, “Pretty close.”
“They’re going to be looked at, so I’m not going to say much more than that,” Julien said. “Obviously it’s disappointing that a key player gets hurt. I know that there’s history here. It’s a guy who plays about two, three minutes a game and targets your best player, one of your best players, with that kind of thing.
“It’s going to be something that I’m sure people are going to try and use as a [Ryan] Miller example. I’m not sure Lucic is necessarily a three-minute guy, but whatever. It is what it is. It’s unfortunate.”
Julien was referring to the hit by Lucic on Miller two years ago with Miller out of his crease. It was a hit that escalated the icy relationship between these two teams, something that continued Wednesday. It will also likely lead to a suspension for Scott, who is one of the worst examples of the behavior that plagues hockey.
“We had a really good angle of it from the bench,” Lucic said. “Blind-side hit to the head. They’ll look at it, and I know they’ll take care of it.”
Sabres coach Ron Rolston had no comment on the hit.
Buffalo’s Steve Ott, who said he hadn’t seen a replay, had this to say about Scott’s game: “Yeah, Johnny played great for us. When a guy plays, whatever he plays, 48 minutes or 10 minutes a night, he’s physical, looking for fights to stir up a game. He made some great offensive plays, actually, moving the puck and getting them up to our D, too. Johnny’s game I thought was solid.”
At the time of the hit, the Bruins were leading, 4-2, on the strength of two goals by Lucic, the eventual winner by Dougie Hamilton at 11:50 of the second, and a goal by Krug early in the third period.
“That was the main focus heading into this game was we didn’t want to overlook them and we didn’t want to underestimate our opponents,” Lucic said.
The win was key for the Bruins as they play three games in four nights with Wednesday starting their first back-to-back of the season, especially with backup Johnson making his debut. After beating the lowly Sabres the Bruins return to the TD Garden on Thursday night to take on the league-leading Sharks.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.