MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens impressive answer Tuesday night to the “Beatdown in Beantown,” was lost in the shadow of bigger questions.
How seriously was Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty injured when his head was run into the end of the glass that divides the players’ benches by Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara late in the second period of the Habs’ 4-1 win at the Bell Centre?
The two were sliding along in front of the Bruins bench when the puck skittered away and Chara took Pacioretty out along the boards. Pacioretty had nowhere to go and the left front part of his head collided violently with the end of the glass, which is lightly padded.
He slumped to the ice on his stomach, the right side of his face resting on the ice, his eyes closed. He appeared to be unconscious for a matter of minutes. The Canadiens provided this update on their official Twitter feed early in the third period: “Pacioretty is conscious, talking, moving his hands and his feet. He is enroute to hospital for more tests.”
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said after the Habs’ 4-1 victory Pacioretty would remain in hospital overnight for observation and RDS reported a CAT scan showed no bleeding on his brain and that he had suffered a concussion.
Chara was given a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct and the 15.8 seconds which remained in the second period was added onto the third period of what turned out to be a convincing win by the Habs, avenging their fight-filled 8-6 loss to the Bruins Feb. 9. This latest incident adds to the acrimony between the two old rivals.
“Basically we were racing for the puck and battling for position. As the puck went by, I was riding him out,” said Chara, who has a reputation for hard, but not dirty play. “(It’s) very unfortunate that at the same time I pushed him a little bit, he kind of leaned and jumped a little bit, and just hit the glass extension. It’s very unfortunate.
“I knew we were somewhere close to our bench, but obviously that wasn’t my intention, to push him into the post. It’s very unfortunate, in that situation, everything’s happening fast. I wasn’t planning to do that. That’s not my style to (try to) hurt somebody. I always play hard, play physical, but I never try to hurt anybody. I hope he’s okay.”
Martin was calling for the league to take action on the hit.
“It’s serious. When you see an injury like that, the league has to deal with those issues, I think. It’s not the first time. It seems to be getting worse and worse. The league has to take some responsibility,” he said.
When asked if it was a deliberate attempt by Chara to injure Pacioretty, Martin said: “You saw the hit. It was a dangerous hit. When you look at the situation it was a major penalty and a game misconduct.”
The case will be looked at by the NHL’s Mike Murphy, since league disciplinarian Colin Campbell has to recuse himself because son Gregory plays for the Bruins.
Chara and Pacioretty have a history: they had a shoving match after Pacioretty pushed Chara following Pacioretty’s overtime winner here Jan. 8 and it looked in the last couple of games like Chara was targeting him.
So, how will the league handle this one? Pacioretty didn’t have the puck - which is the way the referee tandem of Bill McCreary and Eric Furlatt saw it, given the interference major - and Chara had to be aware of where they were and the inherent danger of the glass around the benches area. Anywhere else on the ice and it winds up being a routine rubout, though late. But how do you judge intent?
No matter which way the league rules, one side is going to be angry. It was either a malicious attempt to injure or a somewhat routine play gone horribly wrong because of where it occurred on the ice.
“I didn’t get a good look at it. All I saw was Patch chip the puck and took what looked to be three strides, which I guess is considered not having the puck any more and all of a sudden his head hit the turnbuckle,” said Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who earned his league-leading 32nd win of the season.
“I hear he’s doing all right,” said Price, “so thank God for that.”
That’s the one point on which everyone can agree.