OTTAWA -- The spotlight on this night should have been squarely on Jean-Gabriel Pageau, an unheralded product from just across the river, whose hat trick propelled the Ottawa Senators to a full-value cream job of the Montreal Canadiens.
Instead, a line brawl, 236 combined penalty minutes and stupidity in the third period dominated the discussion after the Senators took a 2-1 series lead over the Habs. The bad blood between the two rivals escalated yet again, especially between the two head coaches.
"We got beat by a good team tonight; they played very well," Montreal head coach Michel Therrien began in his postgame address. "I always believe you let the players dictate the game. Calling a timeout at 17 seconds in the game -- I never saw that before.
"You never want to humiliate another team as a coach, and this is exactly what happened tonight. As far as I’m concerned, it was classless."
Senators head coach Paul MacLean did indeed call a timeout late in the game with his team up 6-1, but he offered up an explanation for it. Just not sure the Habs will buy it.
"I didn’t know what was going to happen next," MacLean said. "I feel bad for the referees, but they wouldn’t let me bring my players back to the bench so I can tell them what I wanted them to do. So my only recourse was to take the timeout because I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. It was already getting dumb enough as it was.
"So in order to protect my players under circumstances that were instigated by the Montreal Canadiens, I was forced to protect my players. And I will do that every time."
As far as Therrien’s assertion that Maclean was trying to humiliate the Canadiens: "I thought they were doing a real good job of that themselves. They didn’t need my help at all," MacLean fired back.
Did someone turn back the clock and drop this series into 1984, featuring the Nordiques and Canadiens?
All of this, of course, was a byproduct of the controversial hit that Eric Gryba laid on Lars Eller in Game 1, which netted the Senators defenseman a two-game suspension but also ignited a verbal barrage from each side.
"Michel talks about discipline and his team that really turned it around this year," Senators GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com after the game Sunday night. "He took a shot at Paul, who was sticking up for his player recognizing that [Raphael] Diaz did make the pass that got Eller hurt. We don’t like seeing players get hurt. We sure didn’t want Eller [to] get hit the way he did, but that’s the game. Gryba stood up. I told Brendan Shanahan it was the wrong decision on his part. I’ve watched it 100 times. I’ve talked to hockey people around the league, and most of them, like 90 percent, agree it was shoulder to shoulder and then it slid across. So we didn’t think it was the right thing. And we heard all the commentary from [Brandon] Prust and from Michel. Prust had a chance with [Chris] Neil and [Matt] Kassian on the ice and didn’t do anything about it. When they left the ice, he stepped in and took a couple of cheap penalties. People shot pucks at people. I really object at that."
But on this night, there was plenty not to like from each side.
"[White] takes a two-handed chop at the back of the player’s leg -- haven’t seen that in a long time in the National Hockey League," MacLean said. "But that’s hockey. Stuff happens. I thought we handled ourselves well under the circumstances in the duress we were put under. We defended ourselves."
It added salt to the wounds of the Canadiens, that’s for sure. On a night when the Habs were beaten to loose pucks, beaten in the bodychecking department and beaten on the scoreboard, they were also beaten up by the Senators in that line brawl.
"It is what it is. Emotions are flying high out there," Neil said. "We stood our ground.
"We came out tonight, we came hard, we had some hits, everyone finishing checks and that’s what it takes to win," Neil added.
Montreal winger Max Pacioretty says the third-period ugliness reflects the emotions of a playoff series both teams desperately want to win.
"We’re not going to back down from anyone," he said. "We got a lot of guys that will stick up for their teammates, and it showed. But we have to find a way to compete to get more on the scoreboard in the next game. That’s when guys like me have to look in the mirror."
And that’s just it. Forget for a second the craziness of the third period and think about why the Senators have a series lead. That Canadiens forecheck of Game 2 was nonexistent Sunday night. Their ability in Game 2 to make Craig Anderson's life more difficult by crashing the goalie’s crease never really happened, either.
The Senators dominated at both ends of the ice and the Habs are left to ponder just how their game disappeared from Friday night.
"We know we have a much better team in here than we showed," Pacioretty said. "We’re hoping to show up in Game 4."
They have no choice if they want to have any chance to win this series.