Mathieu Danenault made his presence felt against his former teammates.
MONTREAL - On a night when the Canadiens honored their long-standing rivalry with the Red Wings, tensions boiled over, just as they did countless times over the course of their 81 years as bitter rivals.
A cheap shot by Andreas Lilja on Steve Begin in the first period set the tone for a chippy game that erupted late in the third period. With Mikael Samuelsson busy taking liberties with Habs captain Saku Koivu, the Scandinavian rivals looked as though they were about to drop the gloves before they were interrupted.
A former Red Wing in his own right, Mathieu Dandenault swooped in with a flying clothesline that would have made any WWE superstar jealous. Dandenault then wrestled Koivu’s assailant to the ice before being pried off Samuelsson, and then ushered from the ice to loud cheers from a capacity crowd. With his captain in trouble, not even Dandenault’s three Stanley Cup rings from his days in Detroit were enough to hold him back from saving Koivu.
“Being supported by your teammates is always a good feeling,” said Koivu. “Whenever something like that happens and guys have your back, it’s definitely appreciated.”
Koivu wasn’t the only one pleased to see Dandenault come soaring to his rescue.
“Sak our is captain, our heart and soul. If you don’t protect that, you’ve got nothing,” said Christopher Higgins. “I was glad to see Dandy do it and I think all the guys were.”
Dandenault sticking up for his captain didn’t go unnoticed by his head coach, who knows a thing or two about having a teammate’s back.
“That’s what we need right now is a little emotion out there,” said Guy Carbonneau. “If you can’t get excited when there’s 21,000 screaming fans behind you then you have a problem. It’s the kind of spark this team needs.”