He should have known better.

In a game in which Dan Carcillo was punched in the face by a goalie and pounded to the ice by a defenseman without retaliation, a game in which so many of his teammates took numerous unreciprocated hits to the back trying to tie the game, the captain should have known better than to throw an elbow at Patrick Kaleta along the boards in a one-goal contest on the road, at the end of a period in which the Flyers seemed on the precipice of turning things around.

"I thought maybe 2 minutes," Mike Richards said in the losing locker room last night. "To make a call like that, it's personal maybe. Not sure."

Personal? All the more reason not to do it. If Richards believed referee Francois St. Laurent had it out for him, then the elbow to the Sabres' agitator is only more puzzling. Maybe he thought Kaleta's reputation would allow it, the way countless extra shots have been allowed on Scott Hartnell and Carcillo in the four games so far. Maybe he thought Kaleta would get one of those phantom calls that the Flyers' two agitators have received in this series, just for being on the wrong end of a stick shaft or a glove.

"You never know what Kaleta is capable of," Kris Versteeg was saying. "He's a dangerous player out there so you never know. He can run you from behind and he will hit you without the puck. It pretty much came down to 'Richie' protecting himself."

That was the company line all right, from the coach on down to the captain.

"It looked like he was getting run and got his arm up," said Peter Laviolette, while adding that he didn't get a clean look at the replay. But, said Laviolette, "I didn't see any intent there" to warrant a 5-minute major.

General manager Paul Holmgren also didn't see 5 minutes in the elbow, which caught Kaleta in the face, which he had been covering with a cage during practice.

Maybe that's why St. Laurent went over the top a bit. Yes, Kaleta is a known agitator, a guy who gets under the skin of his opponent. Richards has been known to do that as well. But amid a low-scoring series in which past Flyers miscreants like Hartnell and Carcillo have shown gritty maturity taking their licks as they doggedly pursue pucks, the captain should not have put himself and his team in the position he put them in at the end of the second period last night.

Was 5 minutes a little - pardon the pun - over the top? Maybe it's personal, as Richards said. But the referee probably reads too, probably knew that Kaleta was wearing a cage during practice, probably knew he left Monday's game early and did not return after banging his head.