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Montreal Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov, centre, is helped off the ice by a trainer and teammate Josh Gorges (26) after getting checked to the ice by Pittsburghs Matt Cooke Friday night. ((Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press))

Montreal Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov was helped off the ice with an apparent right leg injury after being rammed by Penguins forward Matt Cooke during the first period of the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff game Friday night, while Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal left the game in the second.

The Canadiens told Hockey Night in Canada during the game that Markov suffered a lower body injury and wouldn't return.

Markov was skating toward a loose puck in the corner when Cooke levelled him with a hit that was not penalized at 11:46.

Markov's glove flew high as he dropped to the ice. As several players held and grabbed each other at mid-ice, Markov remained down for several minutes before being helped to a runway leading to the Montreal dressing room.

Markov was putting no weight on his right leg as he left the ice.

The Canadiens lost their best defenceman in the first game of the regular season when Markov had tendons sliced in his left foot by the skate of goalie Carey Price, costing him 35 games.

The Canadiens had a 14-20-3 record this season with Markov out of the lineup, and it was 25-13-7 when Markov was healthy. Prior to this season, the Canadiens had a 6-19-3 mark in games Markov missed since the NHL lockout.

Pittsburgh ended up with a power play because two Canadiens drew roughing penalties.

On March 7, Cooke's blindside hit badly injured Bruins forward Marc Savard, who sustained a severe concussion.

Staal injured his right leg during a second-period collision with Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban and didn't return to the second-round playoff game.

Staal, who scored in the opening period, came up limping on Friday night after Subban accidentally undercut him at the Penguins blueline. Staal dragged himself to the bench, although he was able to skate off the ice a few minutes later for treatment in the locker-room.

The Penguins forward has never missed a game in four NHL seasons. He has played in 358 consecutive games, counting the playoffs, and 302 in a row during the season.

With files from CBCSports.ca