By Joe Haggerty
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and the Bruins find themselves at the random whims of the NHL disciplinary czar Colin Campbell once again after the B’s Captain was slapped with an instigator penalty in the closing moments of Friday night’s Game 5 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
Chara was violently slashed by Buffalo energy center Paul Gaustad – something that the Sabres pivot admitted after the fact -- in the waning seconds of the third period, and immediately began throwing punches at the Buffalo offender.
Sabres tough guy Cody McCormick jumped in as the third man and three different Sabres players tackled Chara to the ice as things quickly devolved into a line-brawl even goalie Ryan Miller joined. Chara was slapped with an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of the playoff game for attacking Gaustad, and per NHL rules is in line for an automatic one-game suspension pending a review by the NHL league offices per rule 47.22 in the NHL rulebook.
Afterward Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff condemned Chara’s actions within the current set of rules governing any game’s final minutes, and handed his players a verbal high-five for requiring three players to tackle the 6-foot-9 Chara.
“It's a serious risk of an instigator when you come in throwing punches," said Lindy Ruff. "They've got to take a hard look at that. Anything in the last five minutes is stupid to do. I like the fact that we had one grab him around the knees, one guy grab him around the waist, and another guy grab him around the neck.
“And the big man went down. You get in a situation like that, everybody knows the rules. You can't start slugging people. That's exactly what Chara was doing. Our response was good to that play."
Chara would only say afterward that it was a “chippy game” and that’s specifically what he was responding to, but Bruins coach Claude Julien believes there’s clearly been a refereeing imbalance in calls during the series.
"It's a chippy game. With that score it happens sometimes. It was a chippy game," said Chara. "We know we didn't have our best game. We came out flat and they came out hard and desperate."
Buffalo has done the lion’s share of the provoking during the first five games of the series, yet it’s been Boston players that have been whistled and called for classic retaliatory actions.
That’s what Chara was guilty of – along with some pretty bad judgment from a veteran leader – when responding to a Buffalo player clearly looking to goad him with the slash to the leg.
"I'm sure if you look at the way the series has gone, we'll be blamed for starting it," Julien said. "We're used to it. It's not a big deal. I know that I saw Chara get slashed behind the leg. It must be our fault, I'm sure. This is playoff intensity. This is the way it goes. You turn the page and move on.”
The feeling here: it’s not an instigator penalty when Chara was responding to a slash from Gaustad at the end of a frustrating game, but there’s always uneasiness in Boston when the NHL and Campbell are involved in their sometimes curious pattern of justice.Joe Haggerty can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HackswithHaggs