First, the Senators drew blood Thursday night.
Then, they smelled it.
Had it not been for an outstanding effort with 48 stops from goalie Craig Anderson, the result might have been different. But the Senators pulled out to a 1-0 lead in their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens with a 4-2 victory Thursday.
While all the post-game talk will surround the controversial hit rookie defenceman Eric Gryba laid on Habs winger Lars Eller in the second period at the Bell Centre, the Senators got up off the mat to come back from a 2-1 third-period deficit.
Marc Methot scored the winner, Erik Karlsson had a two-point effort while Guillaume Latendresse and Jakob Silfverberg also chipped in. Only Brendan Gallagher and Rene Bourque were able to beat the unflappable Anderson.
Silfverberg tied it up at 3:27 of the third, while Methot fired a shot from the point by Carey Price at 5:20. Latendresse scored with 6:05 left to put it away. There were concerns about Price before this game and he didn’t do anything to alleviate them.
"It was great," said Methot. "We had to keep it together in that third period and I think we did. Andy, what can you say? I’ve been saying it since the start of the season. He’s great for us. He’s a machine back there, he just keeps going and going."
Making his playoff debut, Gryba will end up having a date with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. Gryba caught Eller with a blindside hit with six minutes left in the second and the score tied 1-1. Commissioner Gary Bettman was also on hand.
Bourque called the hit "dirty."
"It’s not fun when you see your teammate like that," said Montreal’s Raphael Diaz, who made the pass to Eller that resulted in the hit by Gryba. Eller is in hospital with a head injury, facial fractures and dental fractures.
While it appeared the hit was clean, Gryba was handed a five-minute major for interference and thrown out. The Habs were able to pull out to a 2-1 lead and outshoot the Senators 41-19 after 40 minutes.
"I stepped up to make a hit and I kept my shoulder down. He received the puck by the time I hit him I saw on the replay," said Gryba. "My elbow was down and there was no intent to hurt him whatsoever. I hope he is going to be OK.
"I’m not out here to hurt anybody and it’s never a good scene or anything like that. Hopefully he has a full and speedy recovery."
With the Senators shaken by the turn of events and on their heels, Gallagher scored on a cross-crease pass from Tomas Plekanec and jammed it by Anderson at 14:08.
The Habs scored twice in a stretch of 1:01.
"I just wanted to give the team a chance to win. That’s any goalie’s job at the end of the night," said Anderson, who was missing a tooth as a result of a shot in the mask from Bourque.
"That’s all you can ask for yourself. When you start trying to do too much, that’s when it can go sideways. My job is just to stop the next shot. It doesn’t matter what the clock says or what the score is."
Karlsson opened the scoring in the first with his first goal since returning from injury.
The Senators are now in the driver’s seat even if they lose Game 2 Friday. They’ve already accomplished their goal of getting a split here in Montreal.
Canadiens have much of the early pressure, but Anderson turns them away, including a nice glove stop on Tinordi … Sens get first power-play opportunity, miss net too many times, then Price makes big stop on Silfverberg … Beautiful Karlsson effort ends with goal as he tips in pass from Turris … Habs throw puck at net and it lies agonizingly close to goal line.
Habs get period off on the right foot with huge hit by Subban rocking Neil … Bourque gets alone, but is stoned by Anderson … Big save by Anderson on Galchenyuk … Bourque somehow finds top corner from sharp angle … Gryba gets major and misconduct for head hit on Eller, leading to Gallagher PP goal. With Pageau in box, Habs have 5-on-3. Big stop by Anderson in goal-mouth scrum.
Silfverberg ties game at 3:27 with shot that Price should have stopped … Methot rips a shot under crossbar after nice setup by Alfredsson and screen by Michalek … Habs score, but goal waved off as Prust’s stick had interfered with Anderson … Latendresse gets goal as he crashes to the net and puck bounces off Price then him into net.
- Craig Anderson: Stood tall, especially when Sens took major in second period. Without Anderson’s heroics, the Habs would have had huge lead after two periods.
- Marc Methot: Got game-winning goal. Plus-three on the night. Unsung hero again.
- Brendan Gallagher: Buzzed around Anderson all night, scored goal for Canadiens.
#PeskySens. They never give up. Battled through major penalty in the second period.
Carey Price. Shaky, shaky, shaky. Habs will need better to have chance.
Eric Gryba gets major and game misconduct for hit on Lars Eller. Gallagher scores on PP to give Habs 2-1 lead, but Sens penalty kill unit shuts down Habs attack behind piping-hot Craig Anderson after that.