The Montreal Canadiens entered tonight’s game against Boston having won four straight, and they were cruising with a 4-0 lead in the closing minutes of the second period.
Then suddenly a win over their Northeast division rivals didn’t seem to matter much.
With 16 seconds left in the period and the Canadiens breaking out of their zone, forward Max Pacioretty pushed the puck through the neutral zone while skirting along the Boston bench to avoid an oncoming Zdeno Chara. He didn’t avoid the hulking defenceman, or the glass divider that separates the two benches.
Chara received a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct, meaning the play will receive an automatic review and the proverbial spin on the Wheel of Justice. But in the immediate aftermath of the hit, Pacioretty’s condition was far more concerning. He laid motionless on the ice for several minutes while doctors and trainers carefully placed him on a stretcher.
Early reports from the Canadiens’ official Twitter account indicated that Pacioretty was conscious and moving all his extremities. He was taken to a hospital for further testing.
The Interwebs were immediately ablaze with calls for a book of some kind to be thrown at Chara, and cries of the hit being premeditated. There is a slight history between the two after Pacioretty bumped Chara following his overtime winner back in January. But this was more the result of stupidity than intent.
Chara and Pacrioretty originally made contact while fighting for the puck, and Chara did his job by rubbing his man out and separating him from the play. Where Chara showed a severe lack of intelligence and awareness of his position on the ice is in his decision to continue the play. With the puck a fair distance from the two players and trickling through centre ice, Chara extended his arm and followed through with his hit, resulting in Pacioretty’s collision with the glass divider.
Chara’s job is to use his hulking frame to establish a physical presence. But this was beyond the boundaries of finishing a check. The play had ended, and Chara’s added and unnecessary force could have caused a serious injury.
Despite his poor judgment, it’s difficult to envision Chara receiving any further punishment. The play deserved a penalty, and Chara was sent to the dressing room, but the injury and scary scene was the result of unfortunate geography. Put the play on the opposite side of the rink and the interference call stands, but the injury doesn’t happen.
Here’s the post-game reaction to the hit from around the Habs’ dressing room and from Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
And now to round out a night of bad decisions, here’s Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid drilling Darroll Powe from behind.