Forget the Battle of Ontario. The first-round series between Montreal and Ottawa is creating a fierce and incredibly physical rivalry between the Canadiens and Senators. No one has felt the effects of the opening-round matchup quite like Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.
Early in the second period of Sunday's Game 3, after a first frame that was the embodiment of crash and bang hockey, Senators blueliner Erik Karlsson laid a wallop on Beaulieu that his ancestors felt. The best part? It was a textbook hard, clean body check:
Karlsson is recognized as one of the most smooth-skating defenders in the league, but usually he's using his gift of mobility to move the puck up and out of the defensive zone or skate up to join a rush for a scoring opportunity. On this play, though, Karlsson had one objective, and it was to lay the boom on Beaulieu. There's no doubt that Canadiens blueliner Tom Gilbert was apologizing to Beaulieu after the hit, because it was Gilbert's pass which set his teammate up for the punishment.
No matter how hard the hit may have been, Beaulieu popped right back up and was off to the bench to recuperate from the blast. The hit was Karlsson's sixth of the game, making it one of the most physical games of the Senators captain's career.
After two periods, Ottawa was clinging to a 1-0 lead. Down 2-0 in the series, Game 3 is a must-win for the Senators.