MONTREAL – There was no celebrating in the Montreal Canadiens dressing room after a big 4-1 victory over the rival Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, just deep concern for injured teammate Max Pacioretty after a scary hit.
The Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 went into a hush when the 22-year-old Pacioretty’s head struck the partition between the players benches after a crushing hit from six-foot-nine Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara with 15.8 seconds left in the second period.
Pacioretty lay motionless for several long minutes but seemed to be talking softly to a trainer before he was lifted onto a stretcher and taken to hospital for observation. A team spokesman said he was conscious and was moving all his limbs, but it still appeared to be a serious injury.
”It’s serious when you see an injury like that,” said Montreal coach Jacques Martin. ”The league has to deal with those issues.
”It’s not the first time. It seems to be getting worse and worse. It was a dangerous hit.”
Pacioretty remained in hospital overnight. A team spokesman said an update would be provided at the team’s Wednesday practice.
Pacioretty had chipped the puck past Chara and was skating hard after it when he was slammed into the boards and crashed his head at high speed into the partition.
It will be a tough decision for league disciplinarian Colin Campbell——whose son Gregory plays for Boston—or whoever is deputized to make the call on whether to suspend the Bruins captain.
Chara, not known for dirty play, was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct. The initial hit was not to the head, but the resulting impact with the partition was. Martin said it appeared that officials boosted the call on the ice from a minor for interference to a major when they saw how badly Pacioretty was hurt.
Chara insisted it was not intentional.
”We were racing for the puck and battling for position,” said Chara. “As the puck went by, obviously I was riding him out and it was very unfortunate that at the same time when I pushed him a little bit, he kind of leaned and jumped a little bit and just hit the glass extension.”
”Obviously it wasn’t my intention to push him into the partition. Things happen fast. That’s not my style. I play hard, physical, but I never try to hurt someone. I hope he’s OK.”
It was the second incident between the two this season. After Pacioretty scored in overtime against Boston on Jan. 8, the six-foot-two winger inexplicably gave Chara a little shove that touched off a minor melee.
Things boiled over between the clubs when the Canadiens visited Boston on Feb. 9, as the Bruins looked to use their superior size to intimidate Montreal and ended up winning a wild 8-6 game in which 187 minutes in penalties were called.
The game Tuesday was billed as a rematch, but only one fight broke out early on as Ryan White went after Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk after a failed attempt to hammer P.K. Subban with an open ice hit.
Instead, the Canadiens dominated with speed and crisp passing on attack and tight play around goalie Carey Price, who made 30 saves and saw his defence block another 35 shots.
It is a big week for Price, whose next assignment is expected to be a first head-to-head meeting with Jaroslav Halak when the Canadiens visit St. Louis on Thursday night. Halak, whose is returning from an injury, took the starting job in goal from Price last season and led Montreal to the conference final before he was traded to the Blues last summer.
Lars Eller, one of the players Montreal got for Halak, scored twice in the first period to give the Danish rookie four goals in his last five games, while Brian Gionta and James Wisniewski scored power goals in the second period for Montreal (37-23-7), which won a fifth game in a row and improved to 4-1-0 against Boston this season.
Milan Lucic scored late in the third for Boston (38-20-8), which lost in regulation for the first time in eight games and ended a six-game wining run in road games.
The Bruins looked to be a frustrated team when the Pacioretty hit took place. After Wisniewski made it 4-0, they set their tough guys onto the ice only to see the Canadiens refuse to be lured into a brawl.
As Pacioretty, a winger from New Canaan, Conn., was taken from the building, the crowd went quiet and many fans left during the third period.
”It’s a tough thing,” said Montreal forward Michael Cammalleri. ”The human side of us comes out.
”For a second, you forget you’re in a rink and think about people’s families and lives and how they might be affected by things like this. You just hope for the best at that point. We’re hearing good things, so hopefully he’ll be fine.”
Price said the team did a good job of keeping its focus to finish off the win after the injury.
”Hockey’s a physical game and there’s a lot of big boys with a lot of speed out there,” he said. ”Things are bound to happen but it seems that between these two teams there’s an excess of it.
”I’m all for physical play as long as it’s within the rules. I didn’t get a good look, but I saw Patch chip the puck and take what looked to be three strides, which I guess is considered not having the puck any more, and all of a sudden his head hits the turnbuckle.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien, whose NHL career began in Montreal, called the bench area a dangerous part of the rink.
”It’s not Zdeno’s shoulder or elbow that hit him in the head, it’s the partition,” said Julien. ”When you see those kinds of things it’s very unfortunate and you hope the player gets better quickly.
”We’re going to keep our fingers crossed that he gets better. I know (Canadiens team doctor David) Mulder and I made sure I had a conversation with him and tried to find out as much as I could and hopefully get some good news. Hopefully it won’t be as severe as everybody thinks it is.”
Note to readers: An earlier story carried an incomplete, incorrect version of Chara’s quote explaining the hit