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Canadiens' Prust apologizes for comments about ref

by Arpon Basu /

TAMPA -- Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust apologized Tuesday to referee Brad Watson for what he said following Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Following a 6-2 Lightning win at Bell Centre on Sunday, Prust claimed Watson called him a series of names and accused the referee of trying to take over the game.

On Tuesday, Prust admitted he was wrong to say those things publicly.

"First off, I'd like to apologize to Brad Watson and the rest of the officials in the NHL," Prust said. "It was uncalled for. We got in a heated exchange, and that should have stayed between us. I've always played by the code on and off the ice, I'm a pretty honest player. On Sunday I crossed the line."

The NHL on Tuesday fined Prust $5,000 for the comments.

"Brandon Prust's postgame comments were both baseless and demeaning of a referee whose 20-year career in the League has been marked by professionalism, integrity and a high degree of respect from players, coaches and management," NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said in a statement announcing the fine.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Monday he did not agree with Prust's comments and that what happened between Prust and Watson should have remained on the ice. He also said at the time the situation would be dealt with internally, and he had a meeting with Prust about it prior to Canadiens practice at Amalie Arena on Tuesday afternoon.

"We met this morning and he wanted to apologize," Therrien said. "One thing with Brandon, he's a competitor. He's had good [Stanley Cup] Playoffs for us, he works extremely hard. He hates to lose. When we ended up losing the game, it really hurt him. But as we all know, you can't cross that line. He wanted to apologize."

The incident occurred at 13:45 of the first period Sunday when Watson called Prust for roughing. Watson was then seen having an animated discussion with Prust in the penalty box before tacking on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving the Lightning a four-minute power play. The Canadiens killed each penalty, but when defenseman P.K. Subban was called for cross-checking 19 seconds after the final minor expired, Valtteri Filppula scored on the power play for the Lightning to tie the game 1-1 just before the first intermission.

Prust said his biggest mistake was coming out to speak to the media when he was riled up from what had happened.

"I am apologizing for everything. I am apologizing to Brad," Prust said. "It should stay out on the ice. We got heated, and I should know more than anybody what happens out there stays out there and there's a code and there's an honor. After the game I was not myself. I was fired up, I was out of my mind. If I could do it all over again, I probably wouldn't have even have went in to do interviews. But what's done is done, and we move on."

With Game 3 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports) and the Lightning holding a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, Prust will be relied on to play the same gritty game for the Canadiens, and he said he doesn't think the incident will have any influence on how he plays.

"Brandon, I believe, was one of our best players, generated scoring chances and played hard," Therrien said. "I don't expect [Wednesday] that it's going to be any different. He's going to play a hard-nosed game. As a group, we all know that we have to be a lot more disciplined. Our players know that. We discussed it. We're going to make sure we stay focused [Wednesday] night."

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