The Montreal Canadiens closed the gap on the Northeast Division leaders, and their bitter rivals, the Boston Bruins with an emphatic 4-1 win at the Bell Centre. Lars Eller scored twice, and Brian Gionta and James Wisniewski each tallied power play goals to pull Montreal within three points of the Bruins in the standings.
The game wasn’t the bloodbath many had predicted following the last encounter when the Bruins beat the Canadiens 8-6 after the two teams combined for 187 penalty minutes. However, the game will be remembered for a controversial hit on Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
With 16 seconds remaining in the second period, Pacioretty tried beating Chara for pace by the boards between the two benches. Chara checked Pacioretty who lost control of the puck, but didn’t release his opponent. Pacioretty was slammed head-first into a turnbuckle separating the glass, leaving him unconscious on the ice. The youngster was eventually carried off the ice and taken to hospital for checks after regaining consciousness.
Chara was given five minutes for interference as the puck had long gone when Pacioretty made contact with the turnbuckle. The Bruins captain was also handed a game misconduct, and will have a conference call with NHL Vice President Mike Murphy today to discuss the hit.
It is obvious that it was a bad decision by Chara to follow through, but was there any intent to slam Pacioretty into the turnbuckle? Chara was likely hoping to turf his opponent into the benches, and misjudged it horrifically. Pacioretty had little room to hide as Chara didn’t release him after the puck had gone, leaving him pretty defenseless to the glass between the benches.
The case for and against suspension
It’s safe to say that Chara and Pacioretty aren’t the best of friends. Pacioretty scored an overtime winner for Montreal in a game back in January, and gave Chara a nudge in the back before celebrating. Chara went for the youngster, ending the game with a scrum.
If the league deems that Chara intentionally pushed Pacioretty head-first into the turnbuckle, then it is likely he will be suspended.
However, he was punished on the ice for it with the major penalty and game misconduct. It is also important to put the hit in context. If Chara makes the same play anywhere else on the ice, Pacioretty will hit the boards, and an interference penalty would most likely not be called.
It does seem that Chara pushed Pacioretty in the direction of the turnbuckle, but it will ultimately be down to Murphy if Chara is to be suspended.
It is unclear what the rest of the season holds for Pacioretty who has tallied 14 goals and 10 assists in 37 games. He will certainly be out of action for a while, but what will matter for Chara is whether the league deems the play intentional.
The Bruins were trailing by four goals when the incident took place after some bad defensive play and indiscipline allowed the Habs to take their chances. The Bruins were unable to trouble Carey Price, despite a consolation goal from Milan Lucic in the third period.
The result is important for Montreal, but that will be overshadowed by one of their players being on the receiving end of a dangerous injury. It will be difficult for Montreal to remain focused for tomorrow’s game against the St Louis Blues.
The Boston-Montreal rivalry isn’t over by any stretch. With the regular season reaching its climax, we could be in for a photo finish with first place in the Northeast Division on the line.