DETROIT – It was another scoreless first period for the Red Wings, but not for Jordin Tootoo, whose two quarrels in the opening frame definitely scored points with the home crowd.
Tootoo’s fights against Dallas forward Eric Nystrom and defenseman Brenden Dillon provided a spark for the Red Wings, who battled to a 4-1 win over the Stars on Tuesday night.
“I was expecting him to get on the forecheck, but he took it upon himself to have a couple bouts obviously and we don’t mind that either,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a guy that gives us a different dimension that we haven’t had and when he’s out there guys know that he’s out there.”
For the second time this season, the Wings’ scrappy fourth-line forward dropped the gloves three-seconds into a game when he tussled with the 6-foot-1 Nystrom before fans even had the chance to get comfortable in their seats.
“The first one was more to get a good start and get the boys fired up,” Tootoo said. “Just good, old-time hockey.”
Tootoo, who was signed in July as a free agent to add grit to the Wings’ bottom-six forwards, picked up his first fighting major as a Red Wing last week when he and Columbus tough guy Jared Boll scrapped three-seconds into the game at Nationwide Arena.
Six-minutes after his first fight on Tuesday, Tootoo went after Dillon, a 6-foot-3 defenseman, for an incident that occurred in the Stars’ 2-1 win last week at Joe Louis Arena. After Tootoo sent Stars defenseman Philip Larsen flying into the corner boards last week, Dillon immediately went for Tootoo, who was more interested in getting off the ice following a long shift than engaging the rookie.
“I have a good memory of what happened last game and he was the one who asked me to go. It was game on,” Tootoo said. “When you’re at the end of your shift and you have someone asking you to go that’s a rookie move and that’s what he did.”
If Dillon had a grudge, it carried over to the first period Tuesday, and this time Tootoo was ready for him when the two crossed paths following a face-off deep in the Stars’ zone at 16:11.
By far, Tootoo-Dillon was the night’s marquee bout. Tootoo seemed to gain an edge by staying in tight against Dillon, despite giving up six-inches of height to the 22-year-old rookie. The two pugilists threw a bevy of haymakers and landed a fair share. But Tootoo seemed to wear Dillon out by landing several heavy body punches to the ribs.
“Basically, I was trying to protect myself from not getting hit,” Tootoo said, “and just kept whaling.”
An agitator with the Nashville Predators for years, Tootoo has never backed down from the league’s toughest combatants, although – in most cases – he’s the shortest player on the ice. The 5-foot-9 veteran is certainly no stranger to the occasional fisticuffs, scoring more regular-season fights (64) than goals (46) in nine NHL seasons.
Tuesday was the fourth time in Tootoo’s career that he’s had two fights in a game, although the first time that he’s done so in more than three years. The last time was Nov. 28, 2009 when he fought Florida forward Kenndal McArdle twice.
The last time the Red Wings had two fighting majors in the same game was last February when Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi scrapped with Vancouver’s Maxim Lapierre and Keith Ballard, respectively. Bertuzzi is the last Red Wing to fight twice in the same game, when he battled Nashville’s Shane O’Brien two times on April 2, 2011.
Asked how he felt after his two bouts, Tootoo who turns 30 on Saturday, said, “I feel great. Let’s get after it again. I still had one more fight in me. … For me I don’t mind doing that part.”
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