Not much fight
Canadiens deck punchless Bruins
MONTREAL — An ugly night for the Bruins, and even uglier for the Canadiens — a win that came with a wince.
The Habs easily rolled to a 4-1 victory over the Bruins in front of the requisite full house (21,273) at the Bell Centre, with goals by Lars Eller (two), Brian Gionta, and James Wisniewski, tightening up the race in the NHL’s Northeast Division, leaving Boston with a 3-point lead over its longtime rival.
However, amid the thorough humbling of the Bruins, the Canadiens lost winger Max Pacioretty at the end of the second period when the Connecticut-born winger was knocked cold upon slamming his head into a padded stanchion at the end of the Boston bench, then crashing hard to the ice, his face pounding heavily into the ice.
Pacioretty, 22, was steered hard into the boards by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who was tossed out of the game (five minutes interference, game misconduct) for the hit. However, based on the replay, it was clear Chara did not deliver a dirty hit. A big hit, yes. But not dirty, and not from behind Pacioretty. Chara skated along the boards and at the side of the former Taft winger, and leaned on him heavily to finish his check, the play ending abruptly with Pacioretty’s head and neck snapping frighteningly against the stanchion. Pacioretty was out for upward of 10 minutes.
“We were going for the puck, battling for position,’’ said the towering 6-foot-9-inch Chara, who is seven inches taller than Pacioretty. “I was riding him out. It’s very unfortunate. Obviously, it’s not my intention to push him into the post. And it’s not my style to hurt anybody. I play hard. It’s very unfortunate, but it does happen in the game.’’
Pacioretty, according to the Canadiens media staff, was under observation at a local hospital. Medical staff reported before the game had concluded that he was conscious and had full use of his limbs. It could have been far worse. Given the speed he was skating, the force of the hit, Chara’s size and the winger’s inability to see the stanchion prior to impact, Pacioretty could have broken his neck.
Bruins coach Claude Julien expressed repeatedly that no one wants to see a player hurt, but also noted that Chara is not a dirty player and the hit did not deserve such a severe call.
“It’s definitely something you would have called interference,’’ noted Julien. “But if it happens somewhere else [on the ice], it’s a two-minute penalty. He hit the partition, that’s the tough part.’’
Montreal coach Jacques Martin felt it was a dirty hit and called upon league officials to review it. “The league has to respond,’’ he said. No doubt it will, and quickly. Given the league’s hypersensitivity about head injuries, Chara could face a suspension.
It took the Canadiens medical staff some 10 minutes to place Pacioretty carefully on a spinal support board, then wheel him off the ice. Teammates Andrei Kostitsyn, Roman Hamrlik, and Gionta assisted in lifting Pacioretty onto the gurney.
The hit came with 15.8 seconds remaining in the second period. Because of the long delay, the on-ice officials opted to end the period and finish the final seconds of the period at the start of the third period.
Eller, among the few Danish-born players to make it to the NHL, scored both of Montreal’s first-period goals, each at even strength.
The 1-0 lead came a short time after the Habs failed to connect on their only power play of the period. Working the front of the net as ex-Bruin Paul Mara fired a wrister from above the left wing circle, Eller popped in his sixth goal of the season at 8:21.
The Canadiens, clearly the faster and more nimble team, stressed the skate-and-shoot game, but for all their speed they weren’t getting many shots. But they were getting goals.
With 2:33 to go before the first break, Eller struck again, this time when the Bruins failed to move the puck out of their zone, leaving Eller alone at the right post to collect an alert pass from Travis Moen. Alone in front, Eller completed a nifty spin to leave him with a doorstep forehand shot that he finished off with a sharp wrister high to Tuukka Rask’s blocker side.
“Let’s face it,’’ said Julien. “We gave them the first two goals.’’
The Bruins ended up blanked on the power play for a seventh straight game, 0 for 4 on the night, and have gone a 0 for 16 in the last seven games. They have not scored on the man advantage since Feb. 18 against Ottawa, their longest drought of the season.
Gionta and Wisniewski had Montreal’s other goals, bringing down the chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole’’ from the hometown crowd. Brad Marchand failed on a penalty shot at 4:08 of the third period (more Oles). Milan Lucic finally drilled one in for the Bruins, his 29th this season, for the night’s final score with 6:39 remaining.
“I can’t say we are happy with our game tonight,’’ said Julien.