Canes' Gleason on 2-game fighting streak

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 30, 2013 

— Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason has a two-game point streak of his own making.

Gleason first made a point Friday with Steve Ott of the Buffalo Sabres. Monday, he made another point with Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins.

In both cases, Gleason’s solution to a perceived problem on the ice was simple enough: He dropped the gloves and started throwing punches. Ott quickly went to the ice. With Lucic, at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds one of the NHL’s top-ranked heavyweights, the fight took a little longer.

Why Ott?

“At Buffalo, it wasn’t the way we were playing,” Gleason said Tuesday. “I think we were playing well. But when guys are running around and doing what they want, I guess I personally don’t like being run around.”

Gleason, who is 6-0 and 217 pounds, took issue with Ott, a 6-0, 190-pound forward, making a run at Canes defenseman Justin Faulk near the benches and aiming an elbow in the direction of Faulk’s head. Ott was penalized for elbowing and then a five-minute major for fighting.

Gleason picked up two minutes for instigating the fight, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.

“I’m not saying we’re going to do that every time, but you’ve got to set a precedent where we’re not going to be run around,” Gleason said. “We’re not only going to be a skilled team but a physical team and an in-your-face team.”

Monday, Gleason sensed the Hurricanes needed a shake-up. The Bruins, sharp from the outset, grabbed a 2-0 lead early while the Canes were sleep-walking.

Gleason banged into Lucic along the boards. The two took a look at each other, the gloves fell and soon both were throwing some haymakers.

“That was more of a timing thing,” Gleason said. “We came out a bit flat in the first, down 2-0. I’m guessing I probably could have picked somebody different, but what the heck.

“You want to pick the right person. I know who he is and what he does. Just took my chances and hopefully got us a little momentum there.”

In both cases, Gleason’s actions were appreciated and admired by his teammates and coaches. An alternate captain, Gleason has their respect but again showed he was willing to do the heavy lifting – and take some heavy shots – to help his team.

The Canes won the game in Buffalo, 3-1. They lost to the Bruins 5-3, but Gleason’s fisticuffs with Lucic helped jump-start the Canes.

“He gave us a chance to get back in the game,” coach Kirk Muller said.

Needless to say, Canes fans at PNC Arena liked it, too.

“I think it energized the crowd but more importantly, when a guy like Tim shows his teammates he cares and he wants to win a hockey game and will do whatever it takes for us to win a hockey game … it speaks to his character,” forward Tim Brent said. “It changed the momentum.”

Fighting is deeply ingrained in the sport of hockey, in the culture. No one gets in a fight to spur a sluggish ACC basketball team. In hockey, flying fists can be great motivators.

“In hockey there is that willingness to sacrifice yourself for the betterment of the team,” said Canes forward Kevin Westgarth, who has had his share of NHL fights. “It fires everybody up. You see a guy is willing to take a shot or two to improve his team’s energy, I think everybody rallies around it. Last night was a perfect example.”

Gleason and Lucic both were given five minutes for fighting and went to the penalty box. The consensus was Gleason got the decision in the fight, a rarity for Lucic.

“Lucic is tough and can play,” Westgarth said. “So it was a double whammy. Gleas got the nod in the fight and got a goal scorer and heck of a player off the ice. That’s great.”

Gleason said he didn’t say anything to Lucic after the fight. Too tired to talk.

“I haven’t had a fight like that in a long time,” he said, smiling.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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