A Montreal player got ejected for a hit from behind. A Philadelphia player got suspended for a cross check to the face that caused a broken jaw. This is the classic Canadiens-Flyers series that history showed was coming.
Don't expect players to engage in an all-out brawl in warmups like Chris Chelios, Ron Hextall and teammates did during the 1987 playoffs, but Game 6 of this first-round series Friday will have plenty of hatred to spread around.
"There's no doubt that there's no love between both teams," Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Like we expected, a very competitive series. Like we expected (Wednesday) night, a very competitive game. That's what hockey's all about."
In Game 5, Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi's hit on Travis Sanheim led to some stitches and a major penalty and ejection. Philadelphia defenseman Matt Niskanen's stick also got up in Brendan Gallagher's face and broke his jaw.
The Canadiens ruled out Gallagher for the rest of the series because he needs to leave the Toronto bubble for surgery. It's a big loss for Montreal; associate coach Kirk Muller called Gallagher "the heartbeat of our team." Niskanen was suspended for Game 6 (7 p.m. EDT, NBC Sports Network) after the NHL's department of player safety determined he was reckless with his stick but did not intend to hit Gallagher in the face. Vigneault called it "a hockey play."
Even without Gallagher, there's still plenty of fight left in the Canadiens, the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference who knocked out Pittsburgh in the qualifying round and keep fighting back after falling behind 3-1 to Philadelphia. Tensions being up in this series for big hits, questionable ones, some post-whistle kerfuffles and even 21-year-old budding star Nick Suzuki patting Flyers goalie Carter Hart on the head after giving up a bad goal.
Desperation only brings the best out of Montreal's young group. "It's playoffs, so every game, the intensity is going to get higher," forward Charles Hudon said. "One game, if we lose, we're out, so I think all our energy's going to go for the next game and pretty much every single shift. Who cares what they did, who cares what we did, but I'm pretty sure next game's going to be a good one."
That's one thing the Canadiens and Flyers agree on. "It's going to be a fun game, for sure," Philadelphia center Kevin Hayes said. "I think everyone knows what's at stake here and I think everyone's going to bring their A-game."
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