The Canadiens and Senators turn up the heat in a hurry.
Montreal’s 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the first-round series Wednesday night – a game that saw Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban ejected for slashing and injuring Ottawa’s Mark Stone – has set the tone for a physical, testy series between the rivals.
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”The intensity level is there,” said Brendan Gallagher after Montreal’s morning skate Thursday. ”Each series takes on its own personality. Whatever you’re going to get, you just go in and you have to be ready to compete hard.
”That’s what their side is doing and that’s what our side is doing.”
The Canadiens are anticipating more grit and robustness from the Sens in what has already been a hard-hitting matchup. Ottawa had 44 hits to Montreal’s 42 in the series opener.
Clarke MacArthur led the visiting team with seven hits, while Montreal’s Devante Smith-Pelly and Alexei Emelin each had six.
And all that physical play came before the return of Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil, who’s no stranger to mixing it up. Neil will replace the injured Stone, who suffered a right wrist microfracture and is questionable for the rest of the series.
The 215-pound Neil, who practiced on the fourth line for Ottawa on Thursday, has not played since fracturing his thumb Feb. 14.
”Having a guy like Neil out there kind of helps mediate the cheap shots,” said defenseman Marc Methot, referring to Subban’s second-period slash on Stone. ”He knows his role and he’s able to play both ways too. Having him out there will certainly help.”
Ottawa coach Dave Cameron suggested his team’s smart physical play would get the Senators back in the series.
”I hope we’re physical on P.K., on Markov, on all their players,” Cameron said. ”We’re not going to sit back. But I’d be disappointed if my team starts chasing any one player around and we lose the series because we couldn’t deal with an incident.”
The goal for the Canadiens will be to keep their tempers in check and stay out of the penalty box as the series develops.
In Game 1, Montreal’s lack of discipline – particularly Subban’s – proved costly. Ottawa scored twice on Subban’s 5-minute slashing major to tie it at 3. The Sens finished 2 for 5 with the man advantage.
”You have to keep a cooler head,” Montreal forward Brandon Prust said. ”You don’t want to get too frustrated. You have to stick with your game plan. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you because that’s when you can take some dumb penalties.”
Added Subban: ”My focus is to try to lead by example here and the first thing is to be more disciplined starting next game. That’s it, that’s all.”
Game 2 is Friday night at the Bell Centre. The teams then head to Ottawa for the following two games.
NOTES: Montreal’s Max Pacioretty has not been cleared to play by team doctors. He’s questionable for Game 2 of the series. P.A. Parenteau is day-to-day with an upper-body injury sustained in Game 1. He did not skate with the team Thursday.