COLUMBUS, Ohio — This one featured one anti-hero (Jeff Carter), two old foes (Mike Richards and Brandon Dubinsky) and one defenseman with one bad-looking right eye (Rob Scuderi.)
What might have seemed like a garden-variety game on a Tuesday night in February, a 4-2 win by the Kings over the Columbus Blue Jackets, was anything but at Nationwide Arena.
The Kings won their third game of the season, sparked by three assists from Justin Williams and goals from Anze Kopitar, Carter, defenseman Slava Voynov and Richards, who had his first of the season, an insurance goal, in the third period.
"It was a big statement game from him," Richards said of Williams. "That's what you expect when you need a win the most."
Said Williams: "I'm obviously happy helping out because that's what my role is and what I need to do. At the same time, I'm still trying to keep things as simple as possible. I know my game isn't exactly where it needs to be as of yet."
Richards and Carter were front and center here. Carter, the wildly unpopular former Blue Jacket, was booed whenever he had the puck. Fan discontent went up a notch in the second period when his centering pass went off the skate of Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin for a goal on the power play, making it 2-1 at 4 minutes 25 seconds.
The teams traded goals to finish the second period with the Kings leading, 3-2. Voynov's shot from inside the right point ended up as the game winner, at 10:26.
About a minute later came a scary-looking incident involving Scuderi, who was hit from behind into the end boards by Dubinsky. Richards and Dubinksy then squared off, a common sight in their careers when Richards was a Philadelphia Flyer and Dubinsky a New York Ranger. Dubinsky received a five-minute major for boarding, an automatic game misconduct.
Incredibly, Scuderi not only returned to the game but he came back later in the second period. A displeased Scuderi spoke about the incident after the game, saying he felt as though it was "open season" on some defensemen.
"I think the thing that frustrates me about the whole thing is as a defenseman, you're trying to play by the new rules," Scuderi said. "You know you can't interfere with guys. You can't even make them break their stride.
"I just turned around. Tried to get the loose puck, poke it behind the net to [Drew] Doughty and at that point ... I haven't seen the replay. I don't know if he leaned into me real hard or hit my numbers. But it's a play I do plenty of times and most forwards find a way to be physical but also fair. And I don't think that was the case this time. ... At times, it feels like it's kind of open season on some of the D."
The website hockeyfights.com listed this as the fifth fight between Richards and Dubinsky. Carter witnessed those scraps when he was a teammate of Richards in Philadelphia.
"That's what I said, 'Chalk another one up,' " Carter said. "That was a huge rivalry. It seemed like every time we played the Rangers, they were going at it. They're kind of the same player."
Richards looked almost amused.
"We've had a lot of fights," he said. "A lot. I don't even know why, to be honest with you. I've met him once. He plays hard. ...We got under each other's skin a lot it seems."
Finally, Richards had a good line when asked if Richards versus Dubinsky would continue on in the Western Conference.
"I hope not. I'm tired," he said, smiling. "Tired of fighting him."