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'Gutless play' makes Grahame fighting mad

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2003

TAMPA -- Lightning defenseman Brad Lukowich had no doubt whom to blame for the second-period brawl between goalie John Grahame and Sabres right wing Vaclav Varada.

"It's a gutless play," Lukowich said. "He punches a goalie in the head and then goes after him in the crease."

The scrum involved every player on the ice, including Buffalo goaltender Martin Biron.

The incident began with 53.4 seconds left, after Grahame played the puck near the corner and Varada punched Grahame in the back of the head. Grahame raised his stick as if to swing at Varada, but pulled it down. The two tangled, and Grahame punched Varada twice in the face.

"I just faked like I was going to hit him with my stick and he looked at me funny," Grahame said. "I just hit him. That's really it."

Grahame and Varada each received five minutes for fighting. Biron got two minutes for leaving the crease and Lukowich got two for roughing and a game misconduct for being the third player in.

"You have to do it," Lukowich said. "I'll do it the next game."

He was upset a player would fight with a goaltender.

"Johnny is standing in the crease and the puck is outside the blue line. What is (Varada) doing in the crease?" Lukowich said. "The league has gotten to the point where there is no respect between players anymore. It's an unwritten rule you don't go after the goalie. A guy goes out and does something like that, it's completely gutless."

"I've never heard of the name Lukowich," Varada said. "Gutless? He can say anything he wants. Show me on the ice."

The teams play March 9 at the St. Pete Times Forum and March 14 in Buffalo.

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