The dangers of the final few games before playoffs: Habs lose Max Pacioretty after head injury against Panthers

The Montreal Canadiens have a deep playoff run in their plans, but they got a scare Sunday when leading scorer Max Pacioretty was knocked out of their game against Florida after suffering a head injury.

These final few games of the NHL’s regular season are nervous times for teams for many reasons. For one thing, teams are still jockeying for playoff position; but there’s always a free-floating fear among teams that one of their key players will suffer a serious injury that cripples their odds of post-season success. And you know that’s what was going through the minds of Montreal Canadiens management, players and fans Sunday after the Habs lost leading scorer Max Pacioretty to a head injury.

Pacioretty, who has more goals (37) and points (67) than any other Montreal player this year, was knocked out of the Canadiens’ road game against Florida early in the first period after a check from Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov sent him toward the end boards, where the left winger struck his head: (footage via Vine user JayGold85)

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Kulikov received an interference minor on the play and the Habs scored on the ensuing power play, but they’re far more concerned about the well-being of Pacioretty, who suffered a concussion and fractured vertebra in a 2011 game against Boston. Montreal is still battling Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division, but they may not be playing Pacioretty – either by management choice, or doctor’s orders – for their final two regular-season games.