MONTREAL -- Well, that didn’t take long.
Do you believe in history repeating itself?
Two years ago, the mood was set 13:28 into the second period of Game 1 when Senators blueliner Eric Gryba sent Canadiens center Lars Eller into la-la land with a crushing hit that would result in a two-game suspension for Gryba and the end of the playoffs for Eller.
On Wednesday night, P.K. Subban’s two-handed slash 8:23 into the second period on Senators winger Mark Stone warranted a five-minute major for slashing and an automatic game misconduct, not to mention hobbling Stone, who was in and out of the game with a clear right arm/hand injury.
"He tried targeting me a couple times in the first period off faceoffs," Stone said. "I think he knew what he was doing."
Montreal’s 4-3 win was capped by tempers flaring at the buzzer.
Oh yeah, it’s on.
"I think it's quite simple," Senators head coach Dave Cameron said of the Subban-Stone incident. "It's a vicious slash on an unprotected part of his body and you either do one of two things. I think it's an easy solution: You either suspend him, or one of their best players gets slashed and you just give us five. It's not that complicated."
Hmmm. Not sure the league will be too happy with Cameron insinuating retribution there. But you can understand the Senators being angry, as Stone is easily their best forward in the second half of the season and a huge part of their team.
His status for Game 2 wasn’t yet known, Cameron said.
As for further discipline to Subban from the league, the early word was that he wouldn’t face any, the league likely feeling that the penalty on the ice and game ejection was enough already.
Sometimes the league can change its mind after a night’s sleep but that was the sense Wednesday night, anyway.
Not surprisingly, the Senators felt Subban’s chop deserve a suspension.
"I mean I do, yeah, of course,” Stone said. "There was some intent there.
"That's up to the league,” he added. "Obviously it was a pretty big hack. It looked like he wanted to hurt me."
Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien, surprisingly enough, had a different take on the Subban slash.
“It was definitely a slashing penalty, but from our side I don’t think it deserved a five minute [major],” he said. "But I leave that to the discretion of the referees."
Again, the Sens saw it somewhat differently.
"It was a tomahawk, obviously,” winger Clarke MacArthur said. "I don't know what else you want me to say. In the playoffs when you get a five-minute major for a slash it must have been a good one. The league will handle that."
As for Subban himself, he was nowhere to be seen after the game, apparently going home before the PR staff could corral him for the media.
Yes, it was a wild night.
And we’re just one game into things.
"That was fun. I think it had it all,” Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "A lot of scoring chances for both teams -- and both teams played hard -- it was a fun game to play in."
Both teams combined for six goals in a wide-open second period, Montreal getting four of them, including Brian Flynn's game-winner at 17:17.
That’s right, Brian Flynn. Just like we all predicted.
Proving once again that the playoffs provide the unexpected, it was the fourth-line forward acquired from the last-place Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline who was named the game’s first star for his three-point performance.
Where does this one rank in your career, Brian?
"Yeah it’s one of the highlights if not the highlight,” Flynn said. "Playoff hockey is just a different animal than the regular season. I was really looking forward to tonight all day long. I’m happy to get it started off on the right foot."
Linemate Torrey Mitchell, who also came over in a separate trade deadline deal from Buffalo, couldn’t hide his smile when asked to compare the role the two former Sabres played in Wednesday night’s playoff game in a delirious Bell Centre atmosphere after playing most of the season on the league’s cellar-dweller.
"If you would have asked us three months ago if this is where we’d be standing, I think we’d take it," Mitchell said with a chuckle. "It was a special night for us tonight. It felt good."
A year ago, Mitchell had come home after his season ended in Buffalo and bought himself a ticket to a Tampa-Montreal playoff game, sitting in the stands just like any other fan and wondering to himself how cool it would be one day to play in a postseason game for his childhood team.
Now he lived it Wednesday night and played a starring role, opening the scoring for Montreal 7:53 into the second, a goal that really got the Habs going.
"Couldn’t have drawn it up any better for our line," he said.
In fact, it was quite the night for all of general manager Marc Bergevin’s trade deadline pickups, not just the two former Sabres but also winger Devante Smith-Pelley and blueliner Jeff Petry.
"I feel like it’s pretty tough to have an off-game when the crowd is like that," Smith-Pelly said. "I mean everyone, especially the new guys, were really excited to get out there, excited to feed off the energy. The crowd did a great job of helping us out.
"Right from warm-up, through the anthem, through the whole game, I was getting chills a couple of times throughout the game. It was fun."
Smith-Pelly was a human wrecking ball, tying for the team lead with six hits, which is exactly why the Habs traded for him.
"Yeah I mean that’s what I have to do to create some space for David [Desharnais] and P.A. [Parenteau] or anyone I’m playing with for that matter,” the former Ducks winger said. "I just tried to get in and bang some bodies, tried to get the crowd into it right away."
With Subban ejected, Petry took on more ice time with the Habs down to five defenseman, playing a team-high 24:39 and looking very much at ease.
"That was his first game in the playoffs," Therrien said of the former Edmonton Oilers blueliner. "The last month he’s been really good. I think right now he’s playing the best hockey of his career in the last month. He’s comfortable about the way we play, and it shows in his game. He’s good defensively, he can put [up] numbers offensively as well. I really like what I see from him."
Perhaps the most important part of all in this Canadiens victory was making the Hamburglar look human. Andrew Hammond still did stop 35 shots on this night but looked a little shaky at times in that second period when he allowed four goals. The Bell Centre crowd serenaded him from the get-go Tuesday night and didn’t let up.
Hey, it’s only one game. Hammond can bounce back Friday night in Game 2. And who knows what exactly awaits us then.
Already this series is on fire.