MONTREAL – Despite coming out on the wrong side of the scoresheet on Sunday afternoon, Michel Therrien’s troops gave the Winnipeg Jets all they could handle. Literally.
Pestering netminder Al Montoya with 31 shots while dishing out 26 hits in a 2-1 loss at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens did everything they could to stymie a streaking Jets squad that has been firing on all cylinders since Paul Maurice took over behind the bench back on Jan. 12, going 8-2-0 in their last 10 games.
“The guys played with a lot of energy. They played a good game. We were intense, quick on the puck and we attacked the net. Our net presence was there,” offered Therrien. “We hit two posts. Montoya made some key stops. We would’ve definitely liked to score more goals, but I liked the intensity my players showed this afternoon.”
In the aftermath of the Canadiens’ second defeat in as many days, however, the focus inside the locker room was squarely on the way in which the tilt came to a close, with Brendan Gallagher finding himself pinned inside the Jets’ goal crease as the bleu-blanc-rouge pressed for the equalizer late in the third period. The NHL sophomore was on the receiving end of multiple blows from Montoya and Jets defenders alike, all of which were ultimately ignored by the officials.
Following the contest, assistant captain Josh Gorges quickly came to the defense of the Calder Trophy runner-up, addressing the media on Gallagher’s behalf.
“It’s tough because it’s frustrating when little things are being called. I’ve got to be careful with what I say. I don’t want to get in trouble, but it was pretty evident that they were not allowing [Gallagher] to get out of the zone. He took a punch to the head from the goalie, got tripped up from the defenseman and the guy that came off the bench gave him another shot,” mentioned Gorges.
“From my understanding, the whole time Gally was the one being yelled at by the ref. I don’t know if there’s a grudge or something,” added the veteran rearguard. “I can’t comment on how they feel towards any individual player. I would never think that a ref would do that. I think that they all have pretty good integrity in the game. That’s a question that you’ll have to ask them. I don’t have an answer for that.”
The Habs bench boss shared in Gorges’ frustration, noting that from his vantage point penalties aplenty could have been assessed during that sequence that would have provided his club with an opportunity to tie things up and force overtime.
“We looked at the play and there could have easily been five penalties given out on that same play. We would’ve taken out the goalie and we would’ve had a good chance at six-on-four. We’re going to ask for an explanation as to why the five penalties that we saw weren’t handed out,” underlined Therrien. “Gallagher is doing his job. He’s going to the net. He’s doing his job and he’s doing it very well. He’s a player who’s very frustrating to play against because he has exceptional work ethic. He’s just doing his job.”
And, doing it well, wreaking havoc time and time again during 18:35 of ice time. Needless to say, the events of Sunday afternoon won’t stop Gallagher from trying to disrupt the Calgary Flames come Tuesday night when they make their only stop of the season at the Bell Centre.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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