MONTREAL – There was as much talk about a mostly meaningless fight than about a fairly routine shutout by Carey Price after the Canadiens 3-0 win Saturday night over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Newly acquired Leaf Joffrey Lupul was not happy that Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban started throwing punches before he got his visored helmet off when the two went at it with seven seconds left in the first period.
Subban said he didn’t notice, but all was OK because he didn’t land any big punches on Lupul anyway.
”If I’d have knocked him out when he was trying to get his helmet off, that’s one thing, but I didn’t hit him,” said Subban. ”It was fine. There was no animosity at all.”
Lupul reluctantly agreed that it was OK—this time.
”I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt this time that he didn’t see, but eventually he’ll stop getting the benefit of the doubt,” said Lupul. ”I don’t have any problem with him, but his name keeps coming up in the media and eventually he’ll stop getting the benefit of the doubt.
”He’s got a lot to learn.”
The fight talk was about as much emotion as any Leaf showed after a game in which they skated hard until Benoit Pouliot and Brian Gionta scored 1:40 apart in the second period, then went flat. After that, the Canadiens were in full control as they outshot the Leafs 39-27.
David Desharnais scored in the third period and also had an assist to give the rookie centre six points in his last three games.
Injury-plagued Montreal may have lost another player as winger Max Pacioretty left the game midway through the third period favouring his left arm or shoulder after he was hit into the boards by Luke Schenn. Coach Jacques Martin gave no word on his condition and said he will be evaluated on Sunday.
Price needed only a handful of sharp saves to earn his 10th career shutout—and second of the season against Toronto. The Leafs have now been shut out a league-leading nine times.
”We needed to battle more,” said Lupul, acquired Wednesday from Anaheim along with prospect Jake Gardiner and a conditional draft pick for defenceman Francois Beauchemin. ”We weren’t winning the battles to get those second chances.
”That’s not the way you want to lose. We didn’t create any offence, didn’t push back and we took penalties. That’s not what it’s about.”
The victory ended a three-game winless run for Montreal (31-20-6), which has not lost more than three in a row this season. The Leafs (23-27-6) were beaten in regulation time for the first time in four games.
”The two points is the important thing. This (the shutout) is icing on the cake,” said Price.
”It was important because we didn’t play the way we wanted to in the last three games,” said captain Brian Gionta. ”It was a good, complete game for us. We were solid from the start.”
The Bell Centre was packed with 21,273 of the usual boisterous fans for both teams for a Saturday night Leafs-Canadiens contest and they saw a fast-paced game in which the Canadiens held the edge in play.
After a scoreless first period, Desharnais slipped a pass into the crease where Pouliot was alone to score from the slot 10:12 into the second frame.
Gionta scored on a nearly identical play, as Pacioretty made the pass while being checked to the ice by Schenn for another high shot from the slot past a helpless Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Desharnais skated hard to the net to tip a Scott Gomez pass in on a power play at 6:19 of the third.
The gifted Subban, playing on the anniversary of his first NHL game when he got a brief call-up last season just before the Olympic break, has taken criticism in his rookie campaign for being overly cocky, including a yapping match with Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby and a spat with Philadelphia’s Mike Richards.
This time, Lupul said he asked Subban to fight and was told ”later.” After putting a hit on the Montreal defenceman, he agreed to go and starting tossing punches right away. The two later had words in the penalty box.
”I was frustrated,” said Lupul. ”He said he didn’t know what I was doing.
”It’s pretty a standard move for two guys that have visors.”
The rivals have split four games this season, with each winning twice at home. The Leafs visit Montreal again Feb. 24 and the teams close out the regular season against each other April 9 in Toronto.
Notes: Price played in his 50th game of the season. … Phil Kessel had five shots, but saw his goalless drought extend to 14 games. … Mathieu Darche (lower body) and Hal Gill (upper body) each sat out a second game, while Michael Cammalleri (shoulder) skated on his own but missed a 10th for Montreal, which has also lost defencemen Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges for the season. … Colby Armstrong, who complained of blurred vision this week, did not play for Toronto and was replaced by Fredrik Sjostrom. Carl Gunnarsson didn’t play for a third straight game.