Islanders forward Steve Bernier has been involved in all three games against the Devils this season and has played with an edge against his former team. On Sunday, he set off a melee when his physical style went a bit over the edge.
Bernier finished a hit on Devils captain Andy Greene in front of the visiting bench early in the second period and sent Greene hard and awkwardly into the side boards. Adam Larsson jumped in to fight Bernier, negating a pending boarding minor, but there appeared to be no hard feelings afterward.
“I didn’t think he was going to stop and change. I played with Greeny. He usually dumps the puck in, you go to hit him and he puts his shoulder up,” said Bernier, who had an assist on Marek Zidlicky’s second goal. “I was surprised he changed. I didn’t think it was a bad hit. As a player, you want to defend your teammate. At that time, everybody thought it was a bad hit, so [Larsson] came to defend his teammate and I had to defend myself. That’s hockey.”
Greene told reporters he didn’t think his former teammate was trying to do anything underhanded. “I know Bernier doesn’t mean anything by it,’’ he said. “He finishes his checks. He’s not trying to hurt me.”
Bernier played on Sunday in place of Ryan Strome, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury suffered in the Islanders’ 3-2 overtime win on Saturday in Columbus. Bernier had been a healthy scratch for eight straight, so he was primed to return.
“It’s been a while, so I know what I want to do when I get my chance,” he said. “I have to be physical, I have to be good defensively. That’s why they brought me here.”
Cal Clutterbuck, who sat out Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury, returned to action and showed no ill effects, leading the Isles with six hits. Eric Boulton was a healthy scratch, as was Brian Strait, who sat for Zidlicky.