Buffalo Sabres tough guy John Scott was looking for a fight. The Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t happy when he picked Phil Kessel as his opponent.
Kessel, who had scored twice in the Leafs’ 5-3 preseason win Sunday night, is 6-foot even, and Scott is 6-8.
The two aren’t even close to being in the same weight class and Kessel wasn’t inclined to get involved. Kessel backtracked and swung his stick a few times at Scott as several teammates rushed in.
”It was pretty stupid, right? He said he was going to jump me,” Kessel said. ”What are you going to do? He’s a big boy so if he’s coming after me, what are you going to do?”
The incident came with 10 minutes left in the game and set off a line brawl and a goalie fight between the Leafs’ Jonathan Bernier and the Sabres’ Ryan Miller.
It came right after a fight between Toronto’s Jamie Devane and Buffalo’s Corey Tropp .
”That guy’s a big guy, 6-foot-5,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. ”And (Tropp’s) a smaller guy, but certainly a battler. So guys weren’t happy about it.”
Tropp was left bloodied on the ice after the fight and had to leave the game.
”(Tropp) was the guy who instigated the fight,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said when asked about the incident that allegedly spurred Scott to go after Kessel.
”Obviously, maybe they felt that was the problem was that there was a bigger man fighting a smaller guy.”
Kessel was issued a match penalty for swinging his stick, which means an automatic suspension pending a ruling from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Any discipline the Leafs sniper faces will likely pale in comparison to what teammate David Clarkson may be expecting as he jumped off the bench to join the fracas.
Clarkson could get 10 regular-season games for coming off the bench to join the fray.
”We’re not proud or happy that went on, that’s for sure,” said Carlyle, who also said that he sent out Kessel’s line in the hopes of defusing the situation after the fight between Devane and Tropp.
”I think Dave Clarkson made a mistake, and now we’ll pay for it.”
Clarkson was unavailable to the media after the game.
As the altercation reached a fever pitch, Bernier skated out of his crease and challenged Miller. The two went at it near the Sabres’ blue line.
They grappled for a few minutes as the officials were otherwise preoccupied with the rest of the violence.
”I just asked him if he wanted to go, and, obviously I don’t think he seemed that he actually wanted to go, but that’s the way it goes,” Bernier said. ”It’s a hockey game but you get hyper in energy, and I wanted to defend my teammates.”
Bernier was replaced by Drew MacIntyre and Miller by Matt Hackett.
Josh Leivo had the winner for the Leafs, who also got goals from Trevor Smith and Jake Gardiner. Nikita Zadorov, Jamie McBain and Corey Tropp scored for Buffalo.