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Tension between Senators, Canadiens escalates

by Arpon Basu

OTTAWA – Anyone remember when the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens weren't considered rivals?

The teams showed just how much they dislike each other in the third period of Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Sunday night, combining for 210 of the game's 236 penalty minutes over the final period of Ottawa's 6-1 victory at Scotiabank Place.

"It got a little bit stupid in the end," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "But that's hockey."

When Kyle Turris scored to make it 4-1 for the Senators at 7:00 of the third, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien sent out Ryan White, Travis Moen, Colby Armstrong, Francis Bouillon and Jarred Tinordi for the faceoff. MacLean countered with Chris Neil, Matt Kassian, Zack Smith, Jared Cowen and Chris Phillips.

Right after the puck was dropped, White slashed Smith in the back of the leg and bedlam ensued.

"There was a bit of jostling after the faceoff, then a player takes a two-handed chop at the back of a player's leg," MacLean said. "I haven't seen that in a long time in the National Hockey League. But that's hockey, stuff happens. I thought we reacted well under the circumstances and the duress that we were put under and we defended ourselves."

All five players on the ice got into fights – with the Senators coming out ahead in all of them – and eight players received game misconducts. The only two who weren't thrown out according to the official scoresheet were Cowen and, strangely, White, though neither played another shift.

"We weren't trying to send a message," Neil said. "If you look at the play, White starts that whole thing. It has nothing to do with us in here, but we answered the bell and we stuck together. We're a close-knit group in here and that's why we're in the playoffs."

Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who had been targeted by the Senators all night, then went after Turris at 8:31 – by which point it was 5-1 Ottawa – and was also kicked out and given an instigator penalty. Brandon Prust of the Canadiens took a penalty for elbowing Cory Conacher, who immediately fought Brendan Gallagher at 16:58.

At that point, the Senators had 10 players available and the Canadiens had 11, leaving lots of empty space on both benches.

"There were lots of guys in here," Neil said of the Senators dressing room. "We had six or seven guys sitting out too, so we had a full locker room. There were more guys in here than there were on the ice."

Near the end of the game, Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges took a slap shot that hit Turris in the leg, appearing to aim it directly at him. This was just moments after MacLean called a timeout with 18 seconds left, which left Therrien incensed afterwards.

"You never want to humiliate the other team, and that's exactly what MacLean wanted to do," Therrien said. "To me, it was a total lack of class.

"Even when I said that to the referee, he said he'd never seen a timeout with 17 seconds to go. It was 6-1."

MacLean said the timeout was called to make sure none of his players got hurt.

"I had 10 players left on my bench, I put them on the ice and I didn't know what was going to happen next," MacLean said. "I felt bad for the referees, but they wouldn't let me bring my players back to the bench so I could 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.

"In order to protect my players under circumstance that were instigated by the Montreal Canadiens, I was forced to protect my players. I will do that every time."

When told that Therrien accused him of trying to humiliate the Canadiens, MacLean fired right back.

"I think they were doing a pretty good job of that themselves," he said. "They didn't need my help at all."

Game 4 of the series is Tuesday night in Ottawa.

Stay tuned.

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