Taking It Outside Lindros Sought Street Justice Vs. Tampa Sucker-puncher Lindros Plays A Heavy Lightning Claim Eric And His Sidekicks Tried To Bully Nazarov

Posted: April 10, 1998

MIAMI — Just because Eric Lindros isn't in the lineup, that doesn't mean he can't make news.

The Tampa Bay Lightning alleges, and Flyers sources confirm, that the Flyers' captain confronted Tampa Bay winger Andrei Nazarov outside the Ice Palace Wednesday.

Lindros and several other Flyers were angry over Nazarov's sucker-punching of forward Daniel Lacroix, which caused extensive damage to the area around his left eye, with 6:31 left in the Flyers' 6-1 victory.

Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said he did not witness the postgame incident, but his understanding was that Lindros confronted Nazarov, and that Flyers defenseman Kjell Samuelsson intervened.

Samuelsson could not be reached for comment.

``If he did it, I think it's great,'' Clarke said of Lindros, who is scheduled to return to action Monday after recovering from a March 7 concussion. ``Apparently, our guys were standing around the bus when the Russian came out, and Lindros went over to him . . . The league wants to talk to him about it. They said it's no big deal.''

Asked if he thought there might be some sort of league discipline, Clarke said: ``There's nothing they can do.''

A league spokesman said that the NHL security department was investigating and that the incident was under review.

``Nothing happened,'' Lindros said last night with a dismissive shrug of his shoulders. ``What [Nazarov] did was gutless.''

Nazarov told a Tampa reporter that he was surrounded by six Flyers, led by Lindros.

``It was just bullslinging and chattering,'' Nazarov said, ``but there were six of them and I thought they might try to jump me. They could have. It would have been six to one. I told them to save it for the ice. If you want me, come and get me on the ice.''

Tampa general manager Phil Esposito, who has loaded his lineup with tough guys as the Lightning has sunk deeper into last place overall, declared the parking-lot brouhaha ``a dangerous situation.''

``The league's got to do something about it. We just can't have that,'' Esposito said. ``Andrei's girlfriend was in the car crying. She was scared to death. That's just not right.''

Of course, the Flyers felt what happened to Lacroix wasn't right.

Yesterday, more than 40 stitches in the shape of a crescent embroidered the outer edge of Lacroix's left eye socket, which was badly swollen and discolored. He said the physician who stitched him up determined that he did not have an orbital fracture, as Lacroix had feared, but he said no X-ray was taken to confirm that diagnosis.

``That's a total lack of respect for players,'' Lacroix said of Nazarov's punch. Lacroix said that under the unwritten tough guys' code, there are instances when a surprise attack might be permissible - such as his crosscheck of the Islanders' Rich Pilon on March 3, when Lacroix thought Pilon had gone for John LeClair's knees - but this was not one of them.

``Sometimes you do it when it's provoked,'' said Lacroix, who served a three-game NHL suspension for the Pilon incident. ``But when it's unprovoked like that, out of the blue . . . I can't say anything too bad, because I went across and tried to take bleeping Pilon's head, but I won't go after anybody in a scrum. I've never done that, ever. I try to be fair, give the fighters a chance. We all have different ways of fighting, I guess. That guy, he's done that before.''

The Flyers also were upset that Dan Kordic and Joel Otto, the two Flyers who tried hardest to come to Lacroix's aid, were wrestled away from the fray by the linesmen and taken to the penalty box, along with Tampa's Sandy McCarthy, creating an uneven situation. The Lightning had four skaters in the mix, the Flyers just three.

Lacroix said it all started when he grabbed the jersey of McCarthy, who was jawing at Otto.

``I got a hold of McCarthy because I didn't want him to fight `Otts' or something, but I didn't think anything was going to happen. Then [Nazarov] came in and pulled my shirt. So I face-washed him a little bit [a pawing motion with the glove], and got my [other] hand on him.

``Then [expletive] Tucker comes in and starts yapping, `[Expletive] give it to him! [Expletive] sucker him!' I turned my head [to look at Tucker] and as he said that, Nazarov suckered me. I was hissed at Nazarov for suckering me and I was hissed at that little bleep [Tucker] for having no one around him, kind of giving the order from outside.''

Lacroix chased Tucker, but caught Nazarov instead. Lacroix landed several solid blows before he was jumped by Tucker. Tucker seemed to have been following his own interpretation of the tough guys' code, which holds that if a teammate is injured in a fight, you get the opponent off him. But in this case, of course, it was Lacroix who was injured, his eye already wreathed in blood when he squared off with Tucker.

Lacroix missed last night's loss to the Florida Panthers. He said he didn't know how long he would be sidelined.

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