Tuesday evening, the Montreal Canadiens played one of their best all-around game of the season in a 4-1 win against their division rivals, the Boston Bruins; however, this beautiful win was clouded by Zdeno Chara’s dirty hit on youngster Max Pacioretty at the end of the second period.
The night had begun fairly well for the Habs, after rookie Ryan White went after defenseman Johnny Boychuk who tried to hit PK Subban with his knee in the middle of the ice. The bout was filled with punches and both players were out of gas at the end of the fight. White received a two-minute instigator penalty on the pay, which Montreal promptly killed to gain the early momentum.
The Habs, who seemed jumpstarted by the fight, took an early two-goal lead in the first period, thanks to two goals by rookie Lars Eller. Eller opened the score 8:21 into the game when he buried a rebound past Tuuka Rask on the stick side. Then, nine minutes later, Eller took advantage of a turnover created by Travis Moen at the Bruins’ blue line to elude Rask on a quick backhand-forehand move to beat him again on the stick side.
Eller’s emergence is no stranger to the Canadiens’ five-game winning streak. The rookie, who was acquired in exchange for Jaroslav Halak prior to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, has regained his confidence since he was moved back to center, his natural position, by head coach Jacques Martin. The Danish rookie has now recorded six points (4 g and 2 a) in his past seven games. He has also a +2 plus/minus rating, two hits and eight shots on goal (50% scoring rate!!) over that span playing on a line with Travis Moen and Andrei Kostitsyn. After a dismal start, Eller now has seven goals and eight assists in 62 games with the Habs.
Then, in the second period, captain Brian Gionta put the Canadiens ahead 3-0 on the power play, scoring his team-leading 24h goal of the season, assisted by Scott Gomez and Tomas Plekanec. Rask was not very good on this shot, which slowly trickled in the net after a partial save. Eight minutes later, the power play stroke again when James Wisniewski beat the Finnish goaltender on a hard slap shot from the left point. The Habs finished the evening 2 for 5, while the Bruins were blanked on four PP opportunities.
Milan Lucic scored the lone Boston goal 13 minutes in the third period when he beat Carey Price high glove side. Price stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced for his 32nd win of the season, a league high. He even stopped rookie Brad Marchand on a penalty shot early in the third period with a quick left kick save.
But what clouded what would have been a very successful and positive evening for the Canadiens and their fans is a very dirty hit by giant Zdeno Chara on forward Max Pacioretty at the end of the second period. Pacioretty laid on the ice and remained motionless for several minutes before he was taken off on a stretcher after the hit by Chara, which sent him flying into the glass partition (stanchion) at the end of the Bruins’ bench.
“I knew we were somewhere close to our bench but obviously that wasn’t my intention to push him into the post,” commented Chara after the contest, who was given an interference major and a ten-minute game misconduct, and was thrown out of the game, with 15.8 seconds left in the period. “It’s very unfortunate. In that situation everything’s happening fast and even planning to do that, that’s not my style to hurt somebody. I always play hard. I play physical but I never try to hurt anybody so I’m hoping he’s O.K.”
It was reported Pacioretty was conscious and moved his extremities before he was transported to the hospital where he spent the night for observation and as a precautionary measure.
His status was updated this morning by RDS’ Renaud Lavoie:
Max Pacioretty is suffering from a severe concussion and a neck injury.
The possibility that the forward has suffered a fracture is not excluded.
The Montreal team will have a press briefing today to make an assessment on the health status of No. 67.
The extenuating circumstances surrounding Chara’s dirty hit are helping his case:
1. The score was 4-0 Montreal when the incident happened.
2. Chara tried to fight Pacioretty the last time the two teams met in Boston on February 9th, a game filled with 182 penalty minutes.
3. Pacioretty had pushed Chara in the back after scoring the game-winner in overtime on January 8th at Bell Centre.
You can clearly see Chara extending his arms at the last second just before he rams Pacioretty into the stanchion, therefore invalidating the comment he made after the game. While I don’t believe Chara wanted to knock Pacioretty unconscious, he clearly wanted to hurt him by hitting hard into the bench and blocking him the way. He raised his arms to make sure Pacioretty was not going past him and was hit by the stanchion even if the latter didn’t have the puck anymore. While Chara is not known as a dirty player, he was looking to exact his vengeance on Max Pax ever since the January 8th incident.
Head coach Jacques Martin commented the incident after the game: “It’s serious when you see an injury like that. The league has to deal with those issues. It’s not the first time. It seems to be getting worse and worse. The league has to take some responsibility. It was a dangerous hit.”
However, we all know that the NHL never takes responsibility for this kind of dangerous hit and unless you’re a well-known goon (Trevos Gillies), you rarely receive a lengthy suspension. The fact that Chara is only scheduled for a phone hearing, which means a suspension of five games or less, is reflecting the league’s position on that particular matter. The NHL doesn’t to care if his players are injured and out for an extended period of time. Just think about Marc Savard, viciously hit by Matt Cooke last season, who is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms. Savard tried to come back this season, but he was shutdown for the remainder of the campaign because of continuous symptoms…
Colin Campbell, whose son Gregory plays for the Bruins, will not be the one who’s going to handle the suspension, if any. it will rather be his assistant Mike Murphy who’s going to be responsible for Chara’s fate.
While I believe the NHL will suspend him, I don’t expect it to be longer than two or three games, as the NHL made a habit this season. NHL Suspensions in 2010-11
Do you think Chara’s action was premeditated?
Do you think it deserves a suspension? If so, how many games?
Please add your comments as I want to know your opinion on this particular matter.
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About the Author: Working as a freelance sports writer and translator, Fred, 33, graduated from Laval University in Quebec City, earning a bachelor of translation in 2002. An avid fan of the Northeast division teams, he's also a long time fan of the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Fred also speaks fluently French and Spanish. http://twitter.com/FredPoulin98 www.traductions-quebec.com