Habs' Lars Eller injury overshadows Senators' win

The Ottawa Senators scored three times in the third period after Montreal forward Lars Eller suffered a serious injury, prevailing 4-2 in Game 1 of an NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final on Thursday night.

Montreal forward suffers suspected concussion, broken nose

Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher scores against Senators goalie Craig Anderson, who stopped 48 of 50 shots in a brilliant performance Thursday night in Ottawa's 4-2 victory. (Graham Hughes/Associated Press)

Fifty shots is usually enough to win a hockey game, but apparently not when Craig Anderson is in goal.

Anderson made 48 saves and the Ottawa Senators staged a third-period comeback to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the opening game of the first playoff series to be played between the geographic rivals.

The Canadiens set team playoff records with 27 shots in the second period and 50 overall in what was a losing cause mostly because Anderson outplayed Montreal goalie Carey Price, who stopped 27 shots at the other end.

NHL shouldn’t suspend Gryba: HNIC panel

Eric Gryba’s hit on Lars Eller that left a pool of blood on the Bell Centre ice and the Montreal Canadiens forward with a concussion, plus facial and dental fractures is not worthy of a suspension, according to the Hockey Night in Canada panel.

Eller was taken off the ice in Montreal on a stretcher at 13:28 of the second period Thursday night with the Canadiens leading the Ottawa Senators 2-1 in Game 1 of an NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final.

He was caught with his head down and absorbed Gryba’s open-ice hit near the Montreal blue-line after receiving a Raphael Diaz pass.

Gryba, whose shoulder appeared to contact Eller’s head first on the hit, was assessed a five-minute interference penalty and game misconduct by referees Mike Leggo and Dan O’Rourke.

"He does not leave his feet," said HNIC analyst P.J. Stock of Gryba, a rookie defenceman who will have a disciplinary hearing by phone with the league on Friday at noon ET. "He leads with his shoulder. It’s not interference because he [Eller] just touched the puck [at the time of impact].

"We’re looking at the blood all over the ice [from Eller bleeding from the forehead] and the call ends up being five [minutes] and a game misconduct. It’s a two [minute penalty] in my opinion."

Fellow HNIC analyst Elliotte Friedman agreed with Stock that the hit was only worthy of a minor penalty. He also came to the defence of Leggo and O’Rourke.

"I would defend the referees in this case," he said, "because when you’re in the middle of that [type of hit] and see that result [blood and stretcher] I can’t blame them for making that call.

"The hit, when you watch it [in slow motion] doesn’t look as bad as when you see it initially in regular speed."

Former NHL goalie Glenn Healy, who also sits on the HNIC panel, criticized Diaz for making "a stupid pass," saying the second-year NHL blue-liner set a player up for maybe a career’s worth of injuries.

"Everybody hopes that Eller’s all right," Friedman added. "That’s the number one thing I think everyone is thinking."

Ottawa scored three times in the third period for a 4-2 victory.

— Doug Harrison, CBCSports.ca

"What can you say? Andy's our MVP," said defenceman Marc Methot, who scored the game-winning goal. "He's a machine back there. He just keeps going and going. We're lucky to have him in the net."

The Senators will take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final going into Game 2 on Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).

The Canadiens will be without one of their hottest forwards, centre Lars Eller, who was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher bleeding heavily from the face and taken to hospital. He suffered a concussion, as well as fractures to his face and teeth, after an open-ice hit from Ottawa defenceman Eric Gryba.

Eller had taken an ill-considered pass up the middle from Raphael Diaz when he was flattened by Gryba with a hit that the NHL is likely to review for further discipline. He was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.

"It was a hockey play," said Ottawa coach Paul MacLean. "Our guy hit him, but Player 61 [Diaz] is the guy to blame."

"I can't comment," said Montreal coach Michel Therrien.

Penalty-kill shines

Brendan Gallagher scored during the resulting power play to put Montreal up 2-1, but the Senators' league-best penalty killers then shut the door during a full two-minute, two-man advantage to stay in the game heading into the third.

Jakob Silfverberg tied it with a shot that sailed between Price's legs from the right circle 3:27 into the period and Methot swept a shot from the point into the top corner to put Ottawa ahead at 5:20.

Guillaume Latendresse, a former Canadien who was booed by most of the 21,273 in the seats, sealed the win with a goal that went in off his body as he drove to the net at 13:55.

Erik Karlsson scored in the first period for Ottawa, while Rene Bourque got one early in the second for Montreal.

"You just have to give your team an opportunity to stay in the game and win," said Anderson, who led NHL goaltenders with a 1.69 goals-against average and .941 save percentage this season, but likely won't get the Vezina Trophy because he missed 20 games with an ankle injury.

"Montreal played a really good second period. They had a lot of momentum. Our penalty kill did a good job of finding a way to keep them to one goal and give us a chance to get back in the game. We went from having no momentum in the second and taking momentum back in the third."

Therrien was impressed.

"We played a good game and we deserved a better result," he said. "I'm proud of our team.

"We had 50 shots. We went to the net. But the story of the game was Anderson. He was extraordinary."

Sharp early on

Anderson was sharp as the Senators weathered a fierce Canadiens push in the first 10 minutes before Karlsson put on a show for the opening goal at 17:25.

The 2012 Norris Trophy winner, who returned late in the regular season from an injury to his Achilles tendon, skated through the neutral zone into Montreal territory and worked a give and go with Kyle Turris, redirecting the return pass along the ice between Price's pads.

Montreal tied the game when Bourque came out from behind the net and beat Anderson with a backhand under the crossbar on Montreal's 34th shot of the game at 13:09.

After the Gryba hit and Ottawa down a man, Gallagher banged in a Tomas Plekanec pass at 14:08 to put Montreal in the lead.

Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said the quantity of shots was fine, and the quality was there some of the time, but his team needs to do better in Game 2.

"We lost a little momentum there," he said. "We battled hard most of the game, but we've got to do a little better job of getting second and third opportunities.

"We had a lot of good chances, quality chances, but we've got to find a way to get those rebounds or a little more urgency in front of their net. He's a good goalie and he's going to make the first stop, for sure."

Gryba's hit came after Montreal's P.K. Subban flattened Chris Neil with an open ice hit, but the Ottawa tough guy wasn't injured on the play.