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Friday, October 14, 2005
Updated: October 15, 3:05 PM ET
Brawls the story in Leafs' rout of Thrashers

By Scott Burnside
ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- A series of unfortunate circumstances or an ugly display of cowardice?

Depends on whether you're talking to Atlanta Thrashers coach Bob Hartley or Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Pat Quinn.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Friday night's game between Toronto and Atlanta devolved into several third-period brawls between the teams.

The veteran Toronto coach blasted Hartley and his team after the Leafs' 9-1 win degenerated into a bloody, penalty-filled affair in the third period Friday night.

Atlanta defenseman Andy Sutton was assessed a match penalty for trying to injure Darcy Tucker after the 5-foot-10, 178-lb Tucker was taken hard into the end boards at 9:57 of the third period. Tucker's head hit the metal partition that separates the glass panels along the end boards and he was left dazed for a few moments until he jumped up and raced after Sutton who is 6-foot-6, 245 lbs.

The hit prompted a series of other minor skirmishes around the ice.

Just 23 seconds earlier Tie Domi jumped to the aid of linemate Eric Lindros after the Toronto center was ridden hard into the side boards by Atlanta tough guy Eric Boulton.

"You bet I'm upset," Quinn fumed after the game that saw the Thrashers take 87 minutes in penalties, 73 in the third period. "That's trying to hurt people and there should be no place in the game for that. We'll see what things are made of here. It's a bloody disgrace."

Quinn called the hit on Tucker "head-hunting" and also complained about a hit by Patrik Stefan, not known for his physicality, on Nik Antropov with 3:40 left in the game. Antropov had passed the puck and was turning away when Stefan hit him high with his shoulder.

"That hit on Nik at the end, the blind shot, a sucker shot, cowardly, that's all it is. That's not good strong hockey that's a bunch of cowards for chrissakes," Quinn said.

Quinn complained that Hartley's teams have a history of such tactics.

"He promotes it. That's his history," Quinn said.

Not surprisingly Hartley, whose talent-laden team has managed just two wins, both against lowly Washington, saw the scene quite differently.

"He's very allowed to his comments. One thing is sure it started with a good bodycheck on Boulton on Lindros and who comes in? Domi. So that's what I'm going to say. Pat Quinn can say what he wants I don't really care."

As for the hit on Tucker, Hartley said it was a routine play.

"There's a situation where Sutts rode Tucker into the boards and Tucker hits his face on the partition. Was it a dirty hit? Was it a charge? Was it from behind? I don't think so. But obviously there was blood and the referee decided to call it."

"It's two situations. You guys will obviously invest lots of ink in this. But on my side, it's one fair bodycheck where Domi comes in and the other one where Sutton rides Tucker into the boards. How often do you see a bodycheck like this? You see it tons of times in a season. They're always whining and tonight is no different."

The final comment, made as Hartley exited his post-game press briefing, prompted a brief, angry exchange between the Atlanta coach and Toronto GM John Ferguson Jr. who had been waiting for Hartley in the hallway between the two dressing rooms and then slipped into Hartley's media session.

"That's bull----, Bob," Ferguson said to which Hartley responded in kind.

Opposing team officials rarely if ever attend each other's press conferences.

Quinn was also critical of the officiating crew of Dan O'Halloran and Dan O'Rourke.

"It's pretty disappointing. The crew should have been on top of it. What does it do? I guess we go and get some guys the next game and go head-hunting on them? Is that the answer? That's what it looks like here because it doesn't stop. They claim they went to the bench and warned them and it didn't stop. All head-hunting. Not good bodychecks, not firm tough hockey. Just cowardice," Quinn said.

Sutton will almost certainly face a suspension for the hit on Tucker.

The game was the first of four meetings between the two Eastern Conference teams. They next meet in Toronto on Nov. 19 although league officials will no doubt have long talks with both teams to make sure there isn't a repeat of Friday's debacle.
Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.