OTTAWA – Rivalries are born in the playoffs and it’s only taken the Canadiens and Senators three games to create a new one.
A period-and-a-half into the first-ever playoff series between the Habs and Sens since hockey returned to Ottawa in 1992, one nasty check to the head kicked off an emotional battle on the ice and a bitter war of words off it.
After combining for 55 hits in Game 1 and 63 in Game 2, the two teams racked up 91 hits between them on Sunday night. A line brawl, 53 penalties and a new franchise record for penalty minutes in a single playoff game later, and it’s becoming clear there’s no love lost between the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators.
“This is what happens in the playoffs. When you play teams a lot of times in a row, there’s a lot of emotion that goes into the games,” understated Josh Gorges, who accounted for just four of his team’s record-setting 129 penalty minutes in Game 3. “Both teams are committed to it and emotions grow. It’s fiery, it’s testy and there’s a lot of hate between the two teams right now.”
That emotion boiled over to the tune of 14 fighting majors and 11 misconducts in the third period alone, leaving both teams short-benched and short-tempered in the final 20 minutes of the game.
“That’s what happens when you have two teams that are competing as hard as these two teams are,” explained Gorges following the 6-1 loss. “Tonight’s game was a pretty physical, emotional game. I think it got to a point where sometimes cooler heads don’t prevail and guys act on emotion. There’s nothing more to it than guys competing.”
With verbal sparring and quick one-liners coming out of nearly every post-game press conference so far, there doesn’t appear to be much love lost between the two head coaches, either. Dumping fuel on an already overly-stoked fire, Paul MacLean added insult to injury when he called a timeout with just 17 seconds left to go in a 6-1 hockey game.
“We got beat by a good team tonight. They played very well. But I’ll say this: a time out with 17 seconds like that is rare,” mentioned Therrien. “As a coach, you never want to humiliate the other team and that’s what MacLean did. As far as I’m concerned, that was a lack of class. I mentioned it to the ref and he said he’d never seen a timeout with 17 seconds left like that either. I always believe you let your players dictate the game.
“We’re going to regroup,” vowed the Habs bench boss. “That’s what we have to do. We’re going to bounce back and we have all season long. We have to regroup as a unit.”
Dishing out five hits in his return to the lineup after missing Game 2 with an upper body injury, Max Pacioretty is looking at Sunday’s rout – and the way the team responds to it – as a chance to prove what the 2012-13 Montreal Canadiens are made of.
“Good teams in the playoffs are able to overcome adversity,” he stressed. “Look at the third period and it doesn’t get any worse for us than that; we got embarrassed. It’s time for everyone to look in the mirror and say, ‘We have to be better.’ Hopefully, we’ll do that from the puck drop starting next game.”
While there were plenty of extracurricular activities from his opponents Gorges could have done without, what had his blood boiling the most following the loss also had more to do with what was happening at the visitor’s end of the ice.
“We can be mad at them all we want, but we made a couple mental mistakes and then we let things slip away. We didn’t respond the right way. In the playoffs, at this time of year, we can’t lose our cool,” admitted the veteran blue-liner. “I thought for a stretch there in the third we lost our heads.
“There’s no time to lick our wounds; obviously we’re not happy with the outcome tonight,” he underlined. “We needed to be better and we weren’t, but we have to regroup. We have to have a good day tomorrow and figure out what we need to figure out to be ready to go for the next game.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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