OTTAWA – Emotions were a little more controlled on an off-day in the first-round playoff series between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, but it’s clear a highly anticipated rivalry has finally developed between these two teams.
Sunday night the Senators took a 2-1 series lead in its best-of-seven quarter-final series in a fight-filled, emotional game.
On Monday players from both sides downplayed the events of the game, saying its just part of playoff hockey and to be expected at this time of year. The intensity is sure to ratchet up again Tuesday night when Game 4 goes at Scotiabank Place.
“This is fun,” said Ottawa forward Kyle Turris. “It’s a great atmosphere, real fun and I don’t know if you would call it a hatred on the ice, but it’s lots of fun.”
Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban echoed Turris’s thoughts.
“This is playoffs, this is exciting,” Subban said. “We knew this being an all-Canadian series that it was going to be a lot of emotion and intensity involved and it’s been great so far.”
Turris was targeted by a number of Montreal players on Sunday. He fought Subban, and as the final buzzer sounded Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges fired a puck at Turris.
“Taking a slapshot at a guy at the end of the game isn’t something that’s really necessary if you ask me,” Turris said. “I don’t think he was trying to get a shot on net.”
While neither team expects things to escalate to the same level in Game 4, it’s clear the Senators want to continue to play a physical style while Montreal would prefer to wear Ottawa down with its speed.
“Last night was one game and (Tuesday) will be a totally different one,” said Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson. “They want to come out and win the game, they don’t want to win the fights and that’s what we have to expect. We know we’re going to have to be even better to win Game 4.”
The Canadiens say they need to focus on their own style if they want to win the series.
“We have to get back to playing our game,” Subban said. “We have to get back to doing the things that make us successful and right now we have a lot of things to play for. We have to make sure that we’re doing the right things and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
Emotion will be a key factor for both teams, but in the end it’s likely the team that manages to control its emotions best that will have the advantage.
“You want to play on the edge and be physical and play our in your face game, hard forechecking, but you have to be smart at the same time,” said Montreal forward Colby Armstrong. “We took some chippy penalties last game, not in the third, but even before that in the first and second and that was uncharacteristic for our group.”
Ottawa’s Eric Gryba, who served a two game suspension for a hit on Lars Eller in Game 1, could be back in the lineup for Tuesday’s game. While he could be the target of some form of retaliation, the Senators aren’t concerning themselves with it.
“I think and I hope that they want to play hockey,” Karlsson said. “I think they want to win the game and if they throw a couple of extra hits on him it’s a part of the game and I don’t think it’s going to affect our game in any way. We want to come out and be a better team than we were (Sunday).
“I think they’re going to dig deep and really try to maintain their focus and I think they want to prove to themselves and everyone else they’re still a good hockey team.”
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien admitted his team needs to concentrate on playing hockey and not get caught up by emotion.
Therrien didn’t go so far as to criticize the officiating, but he felt both rookie forward Brendan Gallagher and Subban were abused at times during the game which in turn led to them taking penalties as they attempted to defend themselves.
“When Brendan Gallagher drops the gloves it’s because he was abused. When P.K. Subban drops the gloves it’s because he was abused,” Therrien said. “There comes a time when a player makes his own law because he’s tired and we saw a fair amount of that (Sunday).”
Therrien believes his team will have no trouble focusing on the task at hand Tuesday.
“We have to make sure we play a solid game,” he said. “We played two solid games in Montreal, I really liked the way we played and (Sunday) was a bad game for us and the Senators played a good game and deserved to win.
“We’ve proven in the past that we’re capable of bouncing back. We have to bounce back (Tuesday).”
Senators coach Paul MacLean says he has made it clear to his team that they haven’t accomplished anything yet and need to keep their focus on the next game.
“The hardest part is yet to come,” he said. “We talked about that (Tuesday) is going to be even harder. That’s what keeps us on an even keel is that we understand it’s going to be hard.”
Notes: Ottawa D Patrick Wiercioch will not be available for Tuesday’s game as he has a lower body injury. … Ottawa F Jean-Gabriel Pageau was still revelling in the effects of scoring a hat trick in Sunday’s game and said among the numerous messages he received was one from Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere, a role model of Pageau’s growing up.…Montreal F David Desharnais admitted he needs to be much better in this series. He has just one assist and zero shots on goal. … Gallagher, who was celebrating his 21st birthday Monday, was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy. … Therien said his unfavourable opinion of MacLean calling a timeout with 17 seconds left in Game 3 hasn’t changed, even after hearing MacLean’s opinion for doing so.