Sens fire back: Cherry is the pits

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

TAMPA -- The wrath of Grapes didn't sit well with the Senators.

Coach Bryan Murray came to the defence of Chris Neil and Zdeno Chara yesterday, a day after they were slammed by CBC's Don Cherry on Coach's Corner.

Speaking during the first intermission of the Montreal-Carolina game, Cherry devoted more than four minutes of his segment to Neil not fighting Tampa's Chris Dingman and Chara taking on centre Vinny Lecavalier.

Cherry mistakenly claimed Neil challenged Dingman when, in fact, he was chirping at Tampa goalie Sean Burke.

But Cherry was most upset that Neil refused to fight Dingman, who received 17 minutes in penalties -- resulting in a seven-minute power play during which Ottawa scored twice -- in the Senators' 8-4 win in Game 3.

"TOMMY TURTLE"

"He turtled. He was a Tommy Turtle," said Cherry while showing video of the incident. "If he's going to challenge a guy, he shouldn't Tommy Turtle like that. There's no honour in that. Just remember, he who will sell his soul for a win has no honour."

Naturally, Cherry didn't stop there. He then went after Chara, who fought Lecavalier in the final minutes after being challenged.

"(Lecavalier) doesn't want to go with this big monster, but (Chara) keeps staring at him and he has no choice," said Cherry. "He's got to go because he's been embarrassed. Then, when it's over, (Chara) is holding his hand up like he's a big hero."

Murray responded before Game 4 last night at the St. Pete Times Forum because it was the talk of the media from Tampa and Ottawa.

"I'm disappointed when people question the character of our players," said Murray. "I like Don Cherry and I like watching him. He's got a vehicle to give lots of opinion when he's on television.

"But Chris Neil did not say anything to Chris Dingman about fighting. (Neil) was talking to Sean Burke. I just don't like people questioning the character of our players because we have good character on our team."

Then, Murray revealed he doesn't want players like Neil or tough guy Brian McGrattan -- who has been a healthy scratch throughout the playoffs -- fighting if the game is close.

"We have a rule that you can't fight if we are only up by two goals. I've always had it with every team I've ever coached. It's okay to fight if we're down by two goals. That's different. In this situation, I didn't want Neil fighting. I thought he did a good job and he did exactly what he was supposed to do."

Neil explained Murray doesn't want the tough players doing anything to change the momentum of the game or fire up the opposing team's bench.

"We had a game against Toronto earlier this year where I fought (Tie) Domi and (McGrattan) went with (Wade) Belak," said Neil. "We both won our fights, but that fired up the Toronto bench. They came back and made it close. We spoke to (Murray) about it after that."

Neil wasn't upset with Cherry's criticism. After all, Neil is a tough guy and he can handle it.

"He's entitled to say what he wants to say," said Neil. "He always gets the last word on Saturday nights."

Chara said Lecavalier shouldn't have instigated the incident.

"If he didn't want to fight, why did he throw the first punch?" asked Chara.

DINGMAN BENCHED

Dingman, who said he'd never been involved in a situation where a player refused to fight him, paid the ultimate price for the incident.

He was a healthy scratch against the Senators last night and his spot on the roster was taken by forward Rob DiMaio.

"I'm disappointed, but I just want the team to win. (Neil) was taking his gloves off to punch guys like (Ruslan) Fedotenko and only getting two minutes," said Dingman. "I throw some punches and I get 17 minutes in penalties. That's the way it goes and that's the way they called it."


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