SUN Hockey Pool

Phaneuf 'hits' wrong note with Habs fans

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The boo birds were raining down on Dion Phaneuf.

That meant the Flames defenceman had both the Montreal Canadiens and their faithful where he wanted them.

Phaneuf was at his best as a one-man wrecking crew in last night's 1-0 victory over the host Habs.

Not only was he under the skin of the Canadiens players, their fans were displeased, too, and sure let him know it.

"Oh he loves that." said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "On the road, he feeds off that stuff. He loves to compete. Those tighter, physical games, you can see he does enjoy it.

"And he loves the challenge. He and Reggie (Robyn Regehr) line up against the top guys, and he was ready for battle."

Phaneuf recorded three hits, but they were doozies.

- He rocked Max Pacioretty after the Montreal forward blocked a shot, gathered the puck and headed up ice only to be stopped in his tracks.

- He went towards the boards while jostling with Tomas Plekanec and sent him flying, which set off fireworks.

- He corked Andrei Kostitsyn with a textbook check.

"That's the type of hockey he needs to play," said Flames winger Eric Nystrom. "He needs to be a physical presence for us, and when he is, he's so dominant. The opposition looks over their shoulder when he's out there."

For his part, Phaneuf said he was simply trying to keep the Canadiens stars from generating with their wheels.

"They have a lot of skill and a lot of speed, and we wanted to keep their chances to a minimum," he said.

His teammates noticed the impact.

"His game this year has taken another level," Iginla said. "Offensively, we're still getting at least the same thing. He's a force out there, controls the powerplay and gets shots.

"He and Reggie playing together, that would be a tough group. You always have to keep your head up. If Reggie's not coming at you, Dion's coming at you.

"They'd be intimidating to play night-in and night-out because both would love to take your head off within the rules."

Curiously, Phaneuf and former teammate Michael Cammalleri went toe-to-toe in a shoving match, with plenty of words exchanged.

So much for friendship.

"As soon as he's wearing a different jersey, it changes very quickly," Phaneuf said. "He's on the other team. We're on this team. That's the bottom line. No matter if he played with us for 10 years, it's the same thing. He's wearing a different coloured jersey."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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