Michael Bunting can get under the skin of the opposition — and perhaps a zebra with the memory of an elephant.
Linesman Dan Kelly, a former American Hockey Leaguer, certainly didn’t like it when Bunting wouldn’t go quietly at the end of a first-period altercation on Tuesday.
Tampa Bay’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had given Bunting a post-whistle knock into the boards and after the ensuing scrum, Bunting was directed to the Leafs gate. But at the door, Kelly gave the smaller Bunting an aggressive shove or two to make sure he stayed off the ice. Bunting was clearly upset at being roughed up, but the 4-1 win and his 100th NHL point allowed him to look back on the incident with humour.
“I played against (Kelly) in the minors. No history there, but I don’t know if I have a history with everybody. It’s hockey, you move on from it.”
Though the NHL welcomes former players as officials, including those with a penalty-filled past who can better take the temperature during rough play, Kelly served a 10-game AHL suspension in 2016 for an elbow to the head of Marlies forward Andreas Johnsson.
As Sheldon Keefe was the Marlies coach that year, it might have been what the two were reminiscing about at the bench at the start of the second period.
“It happens, it’s an emotional game,” Keefe said of the exchange with Bunting and Kelly.
Bunting and Bellemare, meanwhile, wound up spending more than double their scheduled time in the penalty box as they waited for a break in play.
Jon Cooper says it’s tough at the top
Maple Leafs get back into win column