Bitter rivalry

Saturday, 09.02.2013 / 11:16 PM canadiens.com

MONTREAL – There was no love lost between the Habs and the Leafs on Saturday night.

After the Canadiens and Maple Leafs combined for just four total penalty minutes – offsetting roughing minors to David Desharnais and Korbinian Holzer – in the opening frame, tempers started flaring to the tune of 112 penalty minutes over the final two periods. While it was no surprise to see Habs heavyweight Brandon Prust drop the gloves, two unusual suspects also ended up going toe-to-toe with much bigger opponents.

“I’m not very good at [fighting] but every once in a while, you have to do it,” admitted Brendan Gallagher, who squared off for his first career NHL fight against Michael Kostka, who has three inches and 32 pounds on the rookie winger. “It doesn’t feel like it right now, but those things are big for the team: guys being willing to stand up for each other.”

For his part, Gallagher’s roommate, Josh Gorges, took on 6-foot-5, 230-pound forward Frazer McLaren in a rare fight for the veteran blue-liner. After Leafs tough guy Colton Orr took a run at Tomas Plekanec, Gorges, Rene Bourque and Habs captain Brian Gionta all rushed to the Czech centerman’s defense.

“Look at Gorgie fighting a guy that big, Gio going after a guy, Bourquey getting in there,” mentioned Gallagher, who will have to wait just 18 days for the rematch at the Air Canada Centre. “Guys are stepping up for each other and that’s something good teams do. I guess the one good thing we can take from this is we stand up for each other, but the effort from the start of the game wasn’t good enough and we need to be better. This is something that’s going to stick with us for a while. It doesn’t feel good right now but we have to remember this feeling and use it to our advantage.”

While 17 different players spent time in the penalty box on Saturday night, there was one infraction in particular that garnered the most attention in the Canadiens room after the game. During a scrum along the boards midway through the third period, former Hab Mikhail Grabovski sunk his teeth into the forearm of Max Pacioretty, earning a game misconduct and more than a little disdain from his old teammates.

“What are you going to say about that? That doesn’t belong in our sport; that doesn’t belong in hockey,” stressed Gorges. “If you get in there, stand up for yourself, be a man and drop your gloves. You want to do that, you’ll have respect. You’re going to bite somebody? That doesn’t belong in our league.”

Visibly upset during the third period, Gorges also wasn’t shy about his feelings following the 6-0 loss to the Leafs. But as agitated as the Habs were about their opponents’ antics, they were even angrier at themselves after seeing the Leafs open the scoring less than a minute into game.

“It’s hard to think back over all my years if there was a time [I was more frustrated], but obviously tonight I was frustrated at the end. There’s no question I was upset, but it was more so at the score of the game,” confirmed Gorges. “We have to be ready to play right from the start. That’s what we have to take from this game. We weren’t ready tonight to start the game.

“We played better in the second period but we weren’t able to capitalize,” he concluded. “We had 20 shots on net but then we made a couple mental mistakes that cost us goals. At that point, you’re already down 4-0, so it’s about the start; it’s about being ready to come and play. Toronto at home in our building and we’re not ready to play? That’s not good enough.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

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