Things could have gone very badly for Milan Lucic and the Bruins halfway through Saturday’s second period.
John Scott was angry. He had his gloves off. Neither is something you want to associate with Scott.
With less than a week before the start of the playoffs, the Bruins’ No. 1 left wing was in danger of having to tangle with one of the league’s most dangerous men.
Zdeno Chara made sure that didn’t happen.
Chara went right after Scott. First, Chara drove his stick into Scott’s nose. Then, Chara dropped his gloves, pulled Scott in tight, and said several things in the Buffalo tough guy’s ear.
Just like that, the captain put an end to the nonsense.
“It’s something that we all do for each other,” Chara said after the 4-1 win at TD Garden. “That’s the way this team always played. I don’t think that’s going to change. It’s just one of those things. It’s a reaction. You move on.”
The Bruins and Sabres emphasized that hockey is a very dangerous sport. For Buffalo, Matt Hackett left on a stretcher after Torey Krug landed on his right leg. Christian Ehrhoff suffered a concussion. Chris Stewart hurt his ankle. Matt D’Agostini and Brian Flynn left the bench because of injuries.
For Boston, Patrice Bergeron left after the second because of an undisclosed injury. Jake McCabe KO’d Daniel Paille. McCabe’s legal hit produced a lousy outcome — Paille wobbling off the ice with help from his teammates after clanging the back of his head on the ice.
Things could have been worse.
Scott is 6 feet 8 inches and 259 pounds. Loui Eriksson learned the hard way that Scott hits to hurt. Last year, Shawn Thornton found out Scott’s fist doesn’t feel very good when it connects behind your ear.
Scott didn’t like Lucic’s actions earlier in the second. At 7:40, after Hackett stopped the puck, D’Agostini gave David Krejci a late whack. Lucic approached D’Agostini through a tangle of bodies to voice his disapproval.
After several moments of discussion, Lucic popped D’Agostini with a glove-on left jab. Lucic was called for roughing. Before Lucic went to the box, he shoved D’Agostini from behind.
Just over two minutes later, Scott came calling.
“I think it was one of those situations where we know that certain players have roles to play,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Obviously he took exception to Looch going after one of his guys.”
Scott is a Sabre because of Lucic. Buffalo signed the strongman on July 1, 2012, to toughen up the Sabres the summer after Lucic ran over Ryan Miller.
Scott is not a good skater. He has one goal this season, which is one fewer than he’s scored his entire career. But Scott is a scary fighter. His presence was meant to deter opponents such as Lucic from doing anything wrong to his teammates.
Scott’s done this before. In the preseason, Toronto’s Jamie Devane beat up Corey Tropp. Before the next faceoff, Scott lined up next to Phil Kessel. Scott didn’t care that fighting Kessel would be in complete disregard of The Code. After warning Kessel of his intentions, Scott tried to jump Toronto’s ace shooter. The aftermath included a 10-game suspension for David Clarkson for leaving the bench.
On Saturday, Scott saw his opportunity with Lucic.
After Lucic left the box, Scott chased him down. Lucic responded by cuffing Scott in the face. Scott dropped his gloves in preparation to fight. While Lucic grabbed at his right eye (he might have had an issue with a contact lens), Chara stepped in. Of the Bruins on the ice — Jarome Iginla, Krejci, and Dougie Hamilton were the others — Chara was the only one equipped to take on Scott.
Lucic is a scary fighter, too. He might have been able to handle Scott had a fight broken out.
Chara had no desire to see that happen. This is what captains do.
Scott would have accepted a challenge from Chara. Scott’s talked about wanting to fight Chara. By doing so, Scott would take Boston’s workhorse off the ice. Also, Scott thinks a fight between the titans would be pretty cool.
But Chara had no intentions of fighting. Chara’s job was to defend his teammate and defuse the situation. He succeeded. Scott was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing, and a 10-minute misconduct. Chara was called for a high-sticking double minor. Nobody fought.
Chara did his job then. Referee Dan O’Halloran did his in the third.
At 16:20, the teams prepared for a faceoff in the Boston zone. Chara and Scott lined up. They talked. According to Drew Stafford, who was on the ice at the time, they were talking about Scott’s nose.
O’Halloran read the situation: a 4-1 score in the second-to-last regular-season game. O’Halloran didn’t want any stupidity to take place. So O’Halloran tagged Chara and Scott with 10-minute misconducts.
“Johnny’s not stupid,” Stafford said. “He’s not going to do anything. Chara’s not going to do anything.”
O’Halloran didn’t want to find out if Stafford was right.
“I think it was more precaution,” Chara said with a slight grin. “It’s something that the referee decided to do. Maybe send a message or prevent unnecessary things from happening. But it’s all right.”
Sometimes late-season fights turn into trouble. It was only a year ago that Lucic’s current right wing hurt his former linemate. During a fight with Iginla April 20, 2013, Nathan Horton injured his right shoulder. Horton played through the injury in the playoffs. But he needed offseason surgery that kept him out until January.
The Bruins didn’t need to lose Lucic to injury on an unimportant day. The meaningful games are coming up.