Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj (right) is restrained by linesman Derek Amell while referee Kyle Rehman holds back Penguins goalie Marc-André Fleury late in the game played at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Photograph by: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images
MONTREAL - Let’s get this straight right from the start:
Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj does not train in nor does he practice any form of martial arts. He’s no Bruce Lee, no Chuck Norris, no Jean-Claude Van Damme.
“I don’t know where this rumour started, but it’s absolutely not true,” Budaj said with a laugh, torpedoing stories that practically claim his hands and feet are deadly weapons.
“I don’t have any background in martial arts whatsoever. Absolutely zero. Never trained, never done it, there’s absolutely zero, zero, zero truth about it. It’s crazy.”
So then, the life of Penguins goalie Marc-André Fleury was at no time in danger Wednesday night.
There were just over five minutes left in Wednesday’s dismantling of the Canadiens by the Penguins, and the teams were cantankerously scrumming in Fleury’s crease.
Five Canadiens milling about with five Penguins, the home team up 5-1, the game long ago decided. Hostilities sparked, then fizzled, but 180 feet away, the distance shrinking as he skated out between the faceoff circles, Budaj was not a happy man.
Not with the lopsided score — he had been airtight, having by then played 20 minutes of shutout goal in relief of Carey Price — and not with Fleury, out of his net, looking Budaj’s way in what was or wasn’t a challenge.
Budaj shrugged his shoulders at Fleury, as if to say, “Well?” And then he dropped his stick, shook off his gloves and took off down the ice. Fleury headed Budaj’s way, cut off just inside his own blue line by referee Kyle Rehman.
Fleury circled away, tugging off his mask and putting it carefully on the ice, but his end run around Rehman ultimately failed, even as he was undoing the tie-down strap fastening his jersey to the back of his pants in order to improve his range of motion.
Linesman Derek Amell, meanwhile, had corralled the agitated Budaj outside the Penguins blue line and wrestled him back toward centre ice, both goalies finally steered to their benches.
Earning two minutes each for leaving their goal creases, Fleury was standing at his bench, laughing about something that Budaj, by then on the Habs bench talking to Price, didn’t find remotely funny.
A day later, Budaj felt a little embarrassed about the whole episode, admitting it was his boil-over emotions that touched off something he was happy hadn’t got out of hand.
“There was a little frustration on our part,” he said, teammates Rene Bourque and Brandon Prust having crashed Fleury’s crease. “Stuff happens around the net and the Penguins wanted to protect their goalie.”
Fleury left his crease and skated into the corner, which is when he caught Budaj’s eye. And vice-versa.
“Fleury didn’t do anything, he wasn’t in the scrum,” Budaj admitted. “Emotions were high on my part, too. We didn’t play well enough against Toronto (last Saturday). We wanted to come out and play a strong game against Pittsburgh and that didn’t happen.
“The game had been going pretty bad for us, giving them power plays when they have the best power-play in the game. And we hadn’t helped Carey at all. The goals weren’t his fault.
“So after that scrum, I took a few steps to look at Fleury, emotions high, adrenalin flowing.”
And off the goalies went, toward each other, ultimately rounded up by a referee and linesman before they got near.
“Looking back, I’m kind of glad we didn’t get to fight,” Budaj said. “Something could have happened to either of us, something unfortunate. It was a good job by the officials that it didn’t happen.
“It was nothing personal against Marc-André. I’ve only heard good things about him, that he’s a good guy. It all happened only because I was frustrated the way we were playing and the way things were going. Losing 5-1 on the road was tough to swallow.”
His mask off and hair flying, Budaj wanted a big part of Fleury that linesman Amell wasn’t going to let him have.
“He just told me: ‘I can’t let you go, this isn’t right, you can’t do this,’ and I was like, ‘OK, that’s fine,’ ” Budaj said. “Sometimes you have a situation where linesmen and referees stop the players then let them go. Obviously, not this time.”
Back on the bench as the dust settled, Budaj leaned over to Price and apologized for what he believed would be his expulsion — the Habs backup figured he’d be thrown out of the game and Price, mercy-pulled after 35:03, would be forced back in. Finally, Budaj and Fleury both drew only minors.
Compounding matters: the Penguins were going to get another power play, a delayed Canadiens penalty to Bourque called as the scrum began.
“I told Carey, ‘Sorry, man, I got carried away, you’ve got to go back in,’ ” Budaj recalled telling Price. “But he had a grin on his face and just said, ‘Hey, no problem.’ ”
In the Penguins dressing room later, Fleury was asked whether he wished officials had let a goalie fight begin.
“Yeah, sure. I wasn’t going there for fun,” he said. “I thought for a little while it was going to happen. Then the ref didn’t want anything to do with it. I asked him very politely to let me go, but he didn’t want to.”
Then told of Budaj’s (non-existent) martial-arts training, he added, “I didn’t know that. I’d have kept my helmet on for sure. I should go thank the referee.”
Which is why Budaj wanted to set the record straight.
“It puts Marc-André in a tough situation,” he said. “If I didn’t know Fleury and someone told me he had martial arts, I’d also say, ‘Whoa…’
“And it puts me in an awkward situation. The martial-arts stuff is something that’s just not true. … Marc-André and I looked at each other afterwards and sort of said, ‘It didn’t happen,’ ‘Yeah, there you go.’ We were cool about it. It was nothing personal.”
Budaj knows he’s worth a lot more to his club tending goal than he is putting on the foil. Wednesday’s near punchup in Pittsburgh is already well behind him.
“I don’t think I’m a killer,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t go looking for trouble. We just got a little carried away.”
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