TORONTO – The only things missing were a trident, a man on fire and the Spanish Language News Team.
Officials handed out 239 penalty minutes in the preseason game Sunday night between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs. Fifteen fighting majors were called in the game, including ones on Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller and Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Toronto won the game 5-3 in front of 19,001 patrons at Air Canada Centre, but in the Sabres dressing room after the game, the result was an afterthought.
“That got a little sideways pretty quick. It’s one way to start the season,” Miller said. “If anything, it’ll be a nice wakeup call for future games and the kind of mindset we have to have.”
The sideshows started on the face off at center ice after Corey Tropp scored Buffalo’s third goal to cut Toronto’s lead to 4-3 with 10:03 remaining in regulation. Tropp, at 6-feet and 185 pounds, fought 6-foot-5, 217-pound Jamie Devane as soon as the puck dropped. Devane got the better of him and Tropp then had to be helped off the ice by the training staff, leaving a patch of blood behind him.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston did not have an update on Tropp’s condition after the game.
On the next faceoff, with 9:59 to play in the third period, Rolston sent out forwards John Scott, Mike Zigomanis and Brian Flynn and defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Drew Bagnall. The Maple Leafs, with the last change, matched them with their top line of Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel, Carter Ashton and defensemen T.J. Brennan and Andrew MacWilliam.
Scott dropped his gloves and grappled with Kessel – who had two goals in the game – right away. Kessel opted to take three hacks at Scott’s legs with his stick as players from both teams began to swarm the situation.
Chaos immediately ensued as gloves and sticks littered the ice and every player squared off.
“There was really not that much of a build up to tell you the truth, but I’m glad we stuck together as a team.” Sabres captain Cody Hodgson said. “We came out on the losing end but we had some bright spots. We had some spots that were weak, so there’s a lot to address, not just the brawls.”
Hodgson chose his words carefully after the game, biting his tongue at one point when referring to what may have caused the brawl.
“All five guys were into it and it’s kind of gutless to – I’m not going to say anything actually, but I’m just glad we stuck together,” he said.
Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson left the bench to join the fray and received a 10-minute misconduct for doing so. He also faces a 10-game suspension by the NHL.
After the game, Flynn was still nursing some visible injuries, including a cut above his nose.
“It was obviously the shift before that. There’s a lot going on out there,” Flynn said. “That’s why we have John [Scott]. John handles those situations and their whole team jumped in, so we jumped in.”
As the linesmen made an effort to break up the fights at center ice, Bernier skated down the left wing by the Sabres penalty box to challenge Miller. At first, Miller was hesitant to go but quickly changed his mind.
“I thought he was just doing a little flair-for-the-crowd thing. Just kind of say, ‘Hey, Do you want to go?’ I wanted to just get my reps in. I’m not a fighter. I think Bernier even has me in weight,” Miller said.
“But you can’t pass up a fight in Toronto in Maple Leaf Gardens. Back off from that one and, you know, what kind of hockey player are you? So I figure might as well give it a shot. I thought I did OK. He got loose a little bit on me there but towards the end, kind of got back into it.”
Miller said it’s been a long time since he’s last gotten into a scrap like that.
“Not in my whole pro career. All the boys did that work for me in the American League and really nothing’s come up. [Former Sabres goaltender] Marty [Biron] was the one who got the Ottawa fight [on Feb. 27, 2007], so it doesn’t come up too often anymore,” Miller said.
“You gotta do what you gotta do. I thought it was actually kind of fun. Might as well have a fight on your resume in Maple Leaf Gardens.”
The players stopped scrapping to watch Miller and Bernier square-off, but after the goalie fight, the skaters on the ice resumed some extracurricular activities.
The game was the second of a home-and-home series. Toronto won in Buffalo on Saturday by a score of 3-2. It took a 15-round shootout to decide that game.
Buffalo and Toronto do not play again until Nov. 15 in Buffalo.
Trevor Smith, Josh Leivo and Jake Gardiner scored for Toronto in addition to Kessel.
The Maple Leafs drove to the net early and that allowed them to open up an early 2-0 lead. Almost right off the bat, Toronto went ahead as Kessel put in a rebound off Miller’s left pad 1:35 into the contest.
Toronto went ahead 2-0 when Gardiner came in hard on goal and the puck found its way through the Sabres backcheck and to Smith, who put it in with 9:59 to go in the second.
One positive from the period for the Sabres was Zadorov’s goal, scored on the rush with 27 seconds left in the period. Zigomanis threw a pass from the right boards in the neutral zone to John Scott inside the Maple Leafs left wing blue line. Scott dished it off to a charging Zadorov, who sniped Bernier top shelf. The goal was the first of the 2013 first-round pick’s career.
The Sabres came into the second pressure and created some sustained pressure in the Toronto offensive zone. They were unable to convert on any of their 10 shots on goal in the period and allowed two goals in the final 4:11 of the period.
Kessel got his second of the night on a breakout play from the Maple Leafs end. He stole the puck from Mikhail Grigorenko in the neutral zone, skated into the area between the faceoff circles and found twine.
Toronto went ahead 4-1 just 1:03 later. James van Riemsdyk collected the puck and raced up the neutral zone for a breakaway on Miller. The Sabres goaltender was able to force him wide to the left of the net and around to the other side, but van RIemsdyk was able to find Leivo.
The Sabres started to rally back midway through the period with a pair of goals in 1:26. McBain let one fly from the point with 11:29 left in regulation to make it 4-2. Tropp’s goal, a deflection of another McBain shot, made it a one-goal game with 10:03 to go.
To get the puck back to the point for McBain to set up Tropp’s goal, Marcus Foligno swung the puck up the boards from the right wing corner. As he was making the play, he was pushed into the boards by Brennan. Foligno left the in discomfort and did not return. He headed to the locker room shortly after.
Rolston didn’t have an update on Foligno’s condition after that game, saying he, like Tropp, would be evaluated.
After the fights, Gardiner scored a power-play goal on Matt Hackett with 5:14 remaining to give the Maple Leafs a 5-3 lead.
“Even after that, I thought our young guys went out and played well and kept their focus and kept their poise,” Rolston said. “Being through that for the first time, you got guys like [Johan] Larsson, [Mikhail] Grigorenko, [Joel] Armia, Zadorov, all those guys, you know I thought they did a good job of being poised after that.”
Hodgson served as captain for the game and Foligno and Tyler Myers served as the alternates. Rolston has said he will rotate the captaincy throughout the preseason before naming a full-time captain.