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Should the NHL do anything about Bruins’ late-game message-sending?

May 15, 2011, 2:09 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins - Game One Getty Images

One of the curious things about watching a hockey game is how teams handle themselves in a blow out or when the decision in the game seems very apparent. Sometimes a team will give up completely and lose every battle possible. Other times teams look to light a fire for future games by starting up with some of the rough stuff both legal and not legal. At the end of last night’s Game 1 between Boston and Tampa Bay, the Bruins didn’t take kindly to being down ¬†5-2 in the closing seconds and ultimately losing Game 1.

With 37 seconds remaining, players came together along the boards. Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic were caught up with a pair of different messy plays. Horton caught Dominic Moore with a sucker punch intended to start things up while Lucic came out of nowhere to blast defenseman Victor Hedman. Both Horton and Lucic were given roughing minors and ten-minute misconduct penalties. The Lightning then responded by putting their third and fourth line players out on the resulting 5-on-3 power play that wrapped up the game.

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Normally you’d chalk these things up as a “boys will be boys” scenario except that in 2009, Philadelphia’s Dan Carcillo was fined for his late-game antics in trying to send a message to the Pittsburgh Penguins after Carcillo went after Maxime Talbot. Clearly Boston was looking for some kind of spark against Tampa Bay to carry over into Game 2, but is this a situation that calls for the league to step in? Given the edict that went out two seasons ago to try and curtail the so-called message sending, it should but we all know how good the league is at fully practicing what they preach.

Boston played a miserable Game 1, one that saw them play poorly in their own end and get beaten up on the scoreboard and the Bruins feed off the physical play. Giving themselves something to latch on for Game 2 to give themselves a spark makes sense because it can get the Lightning to do something they didn’t do in Game 1: Retaliate.

Some coaches will complain to the media about getting calls to get the attention of officials, others call players out, sometimes a team needs to light a fire in a different way. If motivation to win the Stanley Cup isn’t enough to get a team going then perhaps that team has more issues than they’re letting on.

In this case, Boston was frustrated with how Tampa Bay turned the game on them and forced them to play catchup all night. Boston doesn’t want to play that game and while the Bruins’ power play has been awful, getting the Lightning to take more penalties is never a bad thing.

Should the NHL step in here? It seems clear what the Bruins were intending to do but is it enough to warrant the league’s attention?

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