MONTREAL -- A night that celebrated the opening of the 2013-14 NHL season with one of the League's oldest rivalries turned somber when that rivalry got a little nasty in the third period.
The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 to kick off the season Tuesday night, but the game became somewhat of an afterthought following a serious injury to Canadiens forward George Parros.
Engaged in their second fight of the game at 2:34 of the third period, Parros and Toronto Maple Leafs tough guy Colton Orr were grappling when Orr suddenly lost his balance and fell. Orr had a hold of Parros' jersey so as he fell he brought Parros down with him, sending him tumbling down and causing him to land on the ice face first.
Parros remained motionless on the ice as Orr called to the Canadiens' bench to send the training staff.
"You never want to see a guy get hurt like that, it's a scary situation," Orr said. "I just hope he's alright."
Blood was on the ice as the Canadiens medical staff sat Parros up and tried to get his teammates to take him off the ice before ultimately deciding to bring out a stretcher. Parros was conscious as he left the ice in a stunned Bell Centre with 21,273 fans barely making a sound other than chants of "Parros, Parros!" as he was wheeled to the Montreal dressing room.
Parros was taken to a hospital for further examination, and the Canadiens announced following the game that he had sustained a concussion but was alert and conscious.
Parros played for Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle with the Anaheim Ducks, and it was difficult for him to see what happened.
"We know what kind of person George Parros is," Carlyle said. "He played for me for a number of years, defended his teammates. He's a great person, a great guy to coach. That's just unfortunate the situation it happened in."
The incident put a bit of a damper on what was an entertaining hockey game, with the Maple Leafs getting goals from James van Riemsdyk, Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak and Mason Raymond to win the opener in Montreal for the second season in a row.
A lot of the credit could have gone to goaltender James Reimer, who stopped 34 Montreal shots – including 15 of 17 in a wild first period – to give the Maple Leafs time to get back in the game.
There had been some question as to whether Reimer or Jonathan Bernier would get the start in goal, but Reimer ultimately proved Carlyle right.
"He gave me the chance to get the nod here and I wanted to make the most of it and play my hardest for my teammates," Reimer said.
"I really liked the line with the young kids, Eller's line with Galchenyuk and Gallagher," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "I thought those guys did a good job. They had success tonight because they were skating, they were moving their feet."
Montreal went 0-for-4 on the power play and allowed Bozak to score shorthanded on a breakaway off an Andrei Markov turnover at 17:19 of the second to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.
The Canadiens also showed a tremendous lack of discipline, giving the Maple Leafs seven power play opportunities and giving up a goal to van Riemsdyk on a two-man advantage at 8:01 of the first period that gave Toronto a 1-0 lead.
"Early in the season, special teams usually have a huge impact on the success or failure of your group," Carlyle said. "Tonight, I thought our special teams were the difference in the game. The shorthanded goal kind of turned everything in our favor and the power play got us going."
Eller tied it for the Canadiens at 10:08 of the first off a great feed from Raphael Diaz, and Gallagher gave the Canadiens the lead 2-1 at 13:54. But Phaneuf's goal at 8:36 of the second tied the game, and Bozak's shorthanded goal gave the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.
Raymond's goal at 5:10 of the third, his first in a Maple Leafs uniform, made the score 4-2 just after the fight between Parros and Orr, causing the Bell Centre to grow even more silent. Montreal made an effort at a comeback when Eller got his second of the game off a Jake Gardiner turnover at 17:38, and a final-minute flurry forced Reimer to make a number of big saves to preserve the win.
The Canadiens began the evening with what has now become a tradition of passing a torch from player to player as they are introduced to the crowd, a play on the famous passage written in the Montreal dressing room. It began with a little twist this time as Hall of Fame member Guy Lafleur brought the torch from the Montreal room and handed it to free-agent signee Daniel Briere, who received a loud ovation from fans who booed him for years when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers for choosing to sign with them instead of the Canadiens in 2007.
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