Senators GM John Muckler had mixed feelings the other night in Montreal when defenceman Zdeno Chara squared off with Canadiens goon Raitis Ivanans.
It's a bad tradeoff for the Senators, losing one of the NHL's best players to the penalty box vs. a slug.
"Do I want him to do it? No, not really," said Muckler. "But I do enjoy it when he does."
Chara smoked Ivanans, leaving the 6-foot-4, 260-lb. Latvian with a facial cut and minus a chiclet. It looked like Ivanans lost the tooth when Chara connected with his third huge punch after the linesmen had moved in to break up the fight when the two giants fell to the ice.
Chara, who never ceases to amaze with his agility despite being 6-foot-9, unloaded another bomb through the maze of bodies.
The Habs weren't happy that Chara got an apparent freebie and Chara got a call from NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell about it Wednesday.
"I spoke to him. It was a good conversation," said Chara yesterday.
No discipline was forthcoming. Chara's act sent a couple of strong messages: Don't mess with the Big Z, and, more importantly for a team still trying to downplay a reputation for being intimidated, don't take liberties with his teammates.
Chara was standing up for captain Daniel Alfredsson, who had taken a high hit from Steve Begin. Ivanans got involved, too.
That's when Chara said enough.
"I have to be smart and choose my spots, the time of the game. But I have no problem standing up for my teammates, anytime, anywhere," said Chara. "I felt one of our best players got run and hit in the head and I reacted to it. You have a split second to react and I reacted."
Was that the best time for him to take on the other team's goon? No. It was 2-1 for the Habs.
"I spoke to Zdeno right after the period and he felt he should look after that," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "I suggested maybe we have some other people to do that. But you can't always do it on the road simply because when you put your tough line out there, they put their skill line out which is what they did for one goal in the game.
'HAVE TO BE PATIENT'
"I don't want Chara fighting guys who don't get (playing time). Sometimes you just have to be patient."
That all said, the Senators do need Chara to do that every once in a while, flex the muscles, remind folks there can be severe consequences for taking liberties.
"It's awfully encouraging to see him stand up for his teammates," said Muckler. "They took a couple of runs at Alfie and you didn't see (teammates stand up for each other) in the past. It's nice to see him come forward and send a message that you're not going to intimidate our stars. In fact, I enjoyed it."
Alfredsson didn't have a problem with it, either.
"He stepped up for me, for sure and there are certain times you have to do that and that was one of those times," said the captain. "You have to stand up for yourself, too. It depends on who it is. If it's a guy who's 6-5, it's one thing.
"If it's (Canadiens captain Saku) Koivu who smokes me, it's another story," Alfredsson added with a smile.