Lightning rookie Boris Katchouk stands tall in fight with 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara

TAMPA — Lightning rookie forward Boris Katchouk picked quite an opponent for his first regular-season NHL fight.

In the final minutes of the Lightning’s 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Monday night, Tampa Bay’s fourth line was working resiliently on the forecheck when Islanders defenseman Zdeno Chara saw Katchouk buzzing behind the net and launched the shaft of his stick to Katchouk’s head.

Katchouk’s head jerked back from the impact, but he immediately spun around and threw a right jab right into Chara’s chest.

The tale of the tape — Chara is 6 feet 9 and 250 pounds, and Katchouk is 6-2, 206 pounds — would say this was a mismatch. But Chara, a future Hall of Famer who fought Pat Maroon seconds after Monday’s puck drop, clearly sparked the fire in the 23-year-old.

Chara initially swung Katchouk to his knees, but Katchouk fought back to his feet and wrestled Chara down to the ice by grabbing his legs from under him.

“I asked Bo, ‘Did you know who that was?’” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He was like, ‘Yeah, I knew.’ So you got to give the kid credit. That’s a big fella to go against there, but good for him. He’s brand new to the league and to do that and stuck up for himself. You definitely saw on his way off the ice, he was pretty fired up. So I guess I do get a kick out of that.”

Katchouk, who is just six games into his NHL career and was in his second game back from injury, made a strong impression in the preseason with his relentlessness. He’s starting to find his footing on the Lightning’s fourth line alongside Ross Colton and Taylor Raddysh, who were both teammates at AHL Syracuse.

Katchouk also dropped gloves with Florida‘s Sam Bennett in a preseason game last month. And Monday’s fight certainly earned some stripes for Katchouk from the Lightning veterans.

“That’s just being engaged in the game, showing your emotions and sticking up for yourself there,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “He’s a young player trying to work his way here and find his way in the game and if he brings energy like that, he’s going to have himself a great, successful career.

“So I think he’s improving every game. All those guys back there realizing how hard it is to work, what’s expected of them in our system, and just bringing the energy that goes along with it.”

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