A price worth paying

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:46 PM ET

The Senators will be light one Big Z on the blue line and coach Bryan Murray lighter a few John A's in his wallet when they travel to Florida today.

Hey, it's a small price to pay as this year's edition of the Senators continues to pummel their reputation as being softer than Keith Tkachuk's couch.

The NHL has upheld the one-game suspension to Senators defenceman Zdeno Chara for starting a fight in the last five minutes of Friday night's win over the Los Angeles Kings.

Murray will not be excused the $10,000 fine that comes with the offence. That'll make some headlines, but the real message is the Senators, under Murray's feisty and most-welcomed direction, aren't going to have sand kicked in their direction without retaliating with some cement.

Chara went after Kings defenceman Tim Gleason with three minutes and 21 seconds left in Friday night's 5-1 win, which had been a chippy, spirited affair.

It was yet another heated moment in a game filled with them. The Kings play a game that's on the edge and lead shift disturber Sean Avery was at his agitating best on the night. There was lots of activity around the Senators' net and contact with goaltender Dominik Hasek.

Things started to unravel in the third after Senators winger Chris Neil got kicked out of the game for checking Kings forward Dustin Brown from behind.

Avery bopped Hasek in the yap when the Dominator went behind his net to say he didn't like getting bumped.

Senators tough guy Brian McGrattan was dismissed for the rest of the evening after cross-checking and going after Avery off a faceoff. Chara saw red after Kings tough guy Jeff Cowan, who had rebuffed the advances of McGrattan earlier in the game, suddenly got brave and went after Ottawa rookie Chris Kelly.

Kelly showed some serious 'nads taking on the much-bigger Cowan, but got a serious facial.

INSTIGATOR PENALTY

Eight seconds after that, poor Gleason was Bambi in the headlights of Tyrannosaurus Wrecks. Chara was assessed an instigator penalty, a fighting major, a misconduct and a game misconduct for thrashing Gleason.

"The intent and spirit of Rule 56(a) were applied properly in this incident," said NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell yesterday. "Hockey Operations will not rescind the automatic one-game suspension to Mr. Chara or the $10,000 fine to Mr. Murray."

The Senators will now be without Chara and Wade Redden (still out with a knee injury) for tomorrow night's game against the Panthers.

But it's funny how events like Friday's can bring a team together and maybe help overcome the loss of the club's two top defencemen.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson certainly didn't mind what he saw from his team.

"Hey, if somebody wants to bring it on, bring it on," said Alfredsson. "We can play any style of game they want to. This game was a good test for us. They're a good club and they tried different things. We came out with a big win."

Murray said the Senators were hoping the instigator penalty would be rescinded, as it was in the case of Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes earlier this season, because Chara, who often has played 30 minutes a game lately, was on the ice for his normal shift and had not been sent out to start a fight.

Chara and Murray were penalized under NHL Rule 56(a), which states "a player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five minutes of regulation time or at any time in overtime shall be assessed an instigator minor penalty, a major for fighting, a ten minute misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension .... In addition, the player's coach shall be fined $10,000."

Like I said, a relatively small price to pay for an attitude adjustment.

What might have been priceless was seeing Murray, upset over comments made by Kings' television commentator Jim Fox, make a beeline for Fox outside the Kings' dressing room after the game.

In a mostly one-sided and very entertaining discussion, Murray made his opinion known.

The Senators, who used to tippy-toe by confrontation, now stride straight into it.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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