MONTREAL – Brendan Gallagher felt a little hard done by the referees.
In the final minute of play in Winnipeg’s 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, Gallagher was roughed up by three different Jets players, preventing him from leaving the offensive zone.
With their net empty, and an extra player on the ice for a Canadiens team looking for the equalizer, Gallagher was kept on the wrong side of the blue-line for roughly 20 seconds, keeping his team from entering Winnipeg’s zone.
Gallagher was crosschecked into the net by Zach Bogosian, punched and then elbowed in the head by goaltender Al Montoya in the crease, and then elbowed again by defenceman Jacob Trouba.
There was no call on the play.
“There could have been five penalties there,” said head coach Michel Therrien, who watched the replay before speaking to the media. “We’re definitely going to ask the league for explications. It’s very frustrating. It could have given us the chance to tie the game.”
But Montoya, who made 30 saves for his 10th win of the season, wasn’t buying any of it, and suggested the Habs forward was doing his best to stay in the zone and draw a penalty.
“No. 11?” Montoya asked, apparently not knowing Gallagher by name. “We were all caught up. The referees saw that. They were there. You know he was doing something for a reason.”
After the game, defenceman Josh Gorges spoke to the press on Gallagher’s behalf, calling the five-foot-nine forward too “fired up” and “heated” to address questions about the game’s final minute.
“I have to be careful with what I say,” said Gorges. “It was pretty evident they were not allowing him to get out of the zone. He took a punch to the head from the goalie, got tripped up from the defenceman, and the guy coming off the bench gave him another shot.”
To make matters worse, Gallagher made three trips to the penalty box during the game, for roughing, holding, and tripping. He finished the game with two shots, six penalty-minutes and a minus-1 rating.
“I can’t comment on how (the referees) feel towards any one individual player,” said Gorges. “I don’t know if there’s a grudge or something. It’s too bad.”
With the game tied at 1-1 going into the third period, Michael Frolik scored the eventual winner at 1:04 after a Winnipeg dump-in was mishandled by netminder Carey Price. The Jets captain Andrew Ladd took the puck off Price’s stick, and found a streaking Frolik in front of the net.
The Canadiens (29-21-6) kept the pressure on Montoya and the Jets in the final frame, but couldn’t benefit from two power plays. Winnipeg held on for their eighth win in 10 games since Paul Maurice took over as head coach on Jan. 12.
The Jets (27-25-5) are still in last place in the Central Division, but are only four points off the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Winnipeg has now won four of its last five on the road, and beat the Canadiens for the first time in seven encounters.
“We’ve made some pretty big strides,” said Maurice. “There’s still a lot to cover. It’s what we want our team to look like. We want to define what the Winnipeg Jets’ game is. And that’s going to take a long time to do.
“We’re big and we’re fast and we’re young. And we want to use that. We want to be aggressive with our size and our speed.”
The Jets benefited from good speed by Tobias Enstrom in the second period when he opened the scoring at 9:13 on a great individual effort.
The Winnipeg defenceman carried the puck along the end boards, circled the net and squeezed a shot under Price’s glove on the wraparound for his sixth of the year.
After hitting two posts in the period, the Canadiens got their equalizer courtesy of a quick release wrister by Brian Gionta at 17:06.
While playing 4-on-4 hockey, the Canadiens captain took a pass from Tomas Plekanec on his backhand, quickly switched to the forehand and fired home a sharp shot into the roof of the net.
And despite the incident with Gallagher in the dying seconds, Gorges thought the Canadiens shouldn’t have left it so late.
“That’s not what happened tonight, that wasn’t the difference,” said Gorges of the altercation. “But it was a frustrating end to the game.”
Price, playing his second game in as many days, made 33 saves in the loss.
Notes: Michael Bournival was back in the Canadiens lineup after missing Saturday’s game with the flu. Christian Thomas dressed for the second straight game, while George Parros was a healthy scratch.…The Jets were without Evander Kane, the team’s third-best goal scorer. He’s out with an infection in his hand.…The Canadiens beat the Jets 3-0 in the teams’ first encounter of the year on Oct. 15, 2013. They do not play again this season.