BUFFALO - So Paul Gaustad was the lucky Buffalo Sabre who got to throw himself on a 220-pound hand grenade.
Gaustad made Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic pay for running Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller Nov. 12, challenging Lucic to fight on the second shift of what turned out to be a 4-3 Bruins shootout win Wednesday night, extending their winning streak to 10 games.
By "pay," we mean letting the 6-foot-4 Lucic pound him with a bunch of rights until Gaustad went down after landing a couple of punches of his own.
In the arcane world of NHL justice, this qualifies as an evening of accounts even though the guy who owed won the fight.
Gaustad, though a centre, skated out and lined up on the left wing opposite Lucic for a faceoff in the Bruins' zone 1:23 into the game. They immediately dropped their gloves and drifted out to the blue line before finally engaging.
There had been a lot of anticipation for this game after Lucic barrelled into Miller, concussing the Sabres goaltender.
Apart from a little pushing and shoving, there was no retribution against Lucic at the time and the Sabres were lambasted as a bunch of weenies. Gaustad was one of the guys on the ice when it happened and chastised himself for not challenging Lucic at the time.
Coincidentally, the whole situation was reminiscent of the incident involving the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke, who concussed the B's Marc Savard with an elbow. The Bruins were called out for not going after Cooke in that game.
In their next meeting, Cooke fought with Boston's Shawn Thornton and everybody moved on (with the NHL bringing in Rule 48 for contact with the head).
So, the Lucic-Miller incident might be just about closed, but not the animosity that has been added to this growing rivalry.
Gaustad was in the middle of things at 11:33 of the first when Boston's peppery Brad Marchand took a run at Buffalo's little Nathan Gerbe. Gaustad went after Marchand and got jumped by Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid.
Everybody got involved in the scrum and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, maybe the most feared guy in the game, wound up fighting Buffalo defenceman Robyn Regehr.
Chara won that one and held off giving Regehr one more shot when Regehr was down on the ice.
Oh, yes, there was the rest of the game, with the Bruins putting their nine-game winning streak and first-place in the Northeast Division (and third place in the Eastern Conference) on the table.
The Bruins took over top spot in the division with the win (they have 26 points, just like the Toronto Maple Leafs, but have played one less game).
The Sabres got out to a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal by Christian Ehrhoff and a shot through a screen off the rush by Thomas Vanek.
The Bruins got a power-play goal by Tyler Seguin, who showed off the fearsome one-timer that has helped the sophomore score 12 goals this year (more than he had all last season), to make it 2-1 early in the second. Buffalo's T.J. Brennan got his first NHL goal at 11:02 of the second to restore the two-goal lead, but the B's bounced back again on a score by Marchand.
The feisty winger took a big run at Vanek in the neutral zone, bounced up and jumped on a rebound to make it 3-2.
Chara tied it on the power play early in the third.
The Bruins wound up skating away winners on every count.
Is it too much to hope for a Bruins-Sabres meeting in the playoffs?