It’s getting nasty out there, what with boarding majors and cross-checks to the face. There’s also some gamesmanship going on.
Alain Vigneault did his part by criticizing Montreal’s interim head coach, Kirk Mueller, after Game 2. The Canadiens stirred the fur themselves midway through Wednesday night’s win in Game 5.
The Flyers had just taken a 2-1 lead when Joel Armia took what should have been a harmless shot and an easy save for Carter Hart. Instead, the puck sneaked over Hart’s left shoulder for a surprise goal. Centerman Nick Suzuki, who was trailing the play, gave Hart a pat on the head like you might when your dog brings your slippers.
“I didn’t have any intentions,” said Suzuki, who scored the game-winning goal. “I wasn’t really thinking. I was just excited for the goal. It was just a reaction.”
“It was just uncalled for. I think they were teammates at World Juniors once and it was a spur of the moment type thing,” Kevin Hayes said, calling the move immature. “He can say what he wants. Whatever he thinks.”
It was minor compared to Travis Sanheim’s getting smeared against the glass by Jesperi Kotkaniemi or Matt Niskanen’s extracting some teeth from Brendan Gallagher by way of a cross-check.
Niskanen had a hearing Thursday afternoon with the NHL’s player safety department, the folks with the power to fine/suspend. Gallagher was a ball of fire for the Canadiens, scoring his first goal of the postseason and providing the energy Montreal needed to stay alive.
Suzuki’s love tap will not be reviewed, but you can bet it will be brought up during Flyers film study on Thursday. For it was a violation of hockey code 101: Thou shalt not show up thy opponent.
“I saw it on the replay and was thinking I probably shouldn’t have done that. But it happened,” Suzuki said. “I wasn’t trying to be unsportsmanlike. He’s a real good goalie. We just got a couple by him tonight. Not really any intention. It was just a reaction.”