Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson stopped 48 of 50 Canadiens shots and the Senators beat the Canadiens 4-2 in the opening game of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series. The game was marred by an open ice hit on Lars Eller by Senators defenceman Eric Gryba that sent the Canadiens centre to hospital with facial and dental fractures. Gryba was thrown out of the game and will face a hearing from the NHL Friday. Erik Karlsson gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead in the first period before Rene Bourque and Brendan Gallagher scored in the second period to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead. The Senators got third period goals from Jakub Silfverberg, Marc Methot and Guillaume Latendresse to put the game away. Final shots on goal were 50-31. The three stars were Anderson, Gallagher and Karlson.
Adding It Up –
The Hit – Ottawa coach Paul McLean tried to put the blame on the victim, or the victim’s team. In McLean’s view, all of the blame should be laid at the feet of Raphael Diaz who threw the pass into a dangerous area of the ice leaving Eller vulnerable. He’s right about that part of it. But this turned out to be a targeted head shot, not a body check. Gryba got a five minute major and game misconduct. Conspiracy theorists might take note of the timing of the hit, which was 19 seconds after Rene Bourque had tied the game 1-1. Here’s the video that Brendan Shanahan will be looking at Friday morning.
20/20 Hindsight – Looking back, one could say the game started to turn over the next five minutes. Although the Canadiens scored quicky on the power play, they failed to pile it on in the remaining 4:20, even with the benefit of a two minute 5-on-3 in the middle of the major penalty. Anderson stopped all six attempts during the power play and 25 of a Canadiens record 27 shots in the period. Also worth noting, the Senators are number one in the NHL in penalty killing.
The Letdown – Carey Price’s night was ruined early in the third period when Jakob Silfverberg let a long unscreened slapshot go that beat him through the five-hole to tie the game at 3:27. Price then got sloppy on a shot from the blueline by Marc Methot that Price deflected off his glove behind him into the net. It turned out to be the game winner.
Moving On – With Eller gone, Michel Therrien had some decisions to make. Eventually he moved Brandon Prust, who was outstanding in the first period on a line with Ryan White and Travis Moen, up to play with Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk who was now a centre. They were pretty effective which may mean the hothousing of Galchenyuk may be suddenly over.
Unbowed – In his first Stanley Cup game, Brendan Gallagher was the Canadiens best forward. Of the eleven shots he took, eight were on goal. His first playoff goal gave the Canadiens the lead on that second period power play. He had one taken away from him in the third period when Brandon Prust interfered with Craig Anderson.
The Future – At one point in the third period, of the Canadiens five skaters on the ice, three were rookies in their first Stanley Cup game. Joining Gallagher and Galchenyuk was Jarred Tinordi on defence. Just the one shift, but notable because nothing bad happened. Tinordi got 12 minutes of ice time including 1:49 on the penalty kill.
Subban vs. Karlsson – Although Karlsson, with a goal and assist, was given the game’s third star, this night belonged to Subban with his seven shots on goal and a monstrous hit on Chris Neil in the first minute of the second period. Subban drew the first assist on Rene Bourque’s goal that tied the game at 1-1.
Ahead – Game two of the series Friday night at the Bell Centre. Fifty shots on goal should win a game. Anderson was great, but there could have been a little more presence around him. That will be part of the game plan.