Canadiens’ Prust fined $5,000 for referee comments

Canadiens agitator Brandon Prust with a heart-felt public apology to referee Brad Watson, says he's an emotional player and let his emotions get the better of him, and he crossed the line.

TAMPA, Fla. — Brandon Prust says he “crossed the line” when he discussed the details of an emotional exchange with referee Brad Watson following Montreal’s 6-2 loss to Tampa on Sunday night.

The NHL agreed. The Canadiens winger was fined $5,000 for comments senior league executive Colin Campbell called “both baseless and demeaning.”

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On Tuesday, Prust expressed remorse for regrettable words he claimed were spoken in the heat of the moment. He also extended an apology to both Watson and other NHL officials.

“It was uncalled for,” said Prust. “We got in a heated exchange and that should have stayed between us. I’ve always played by the code on and off the ice, I’m a pretty honest player. On Sunday I crossed the line.”

Prust lost his cool early in Game 2, taking a roughing penalty after cross-checking Braydon Coburn and jabbing him four times in the face with his glove. He complained about the call to Watson on the way to the penalty box and wound up getting scolded by the veteran referee.

Following the game, Prust alleged that Watson hurled profanity-laced insults at him during their exchange and threatened to “drive me right out of this building.”

“That’s the ref he is,” Prust continued. “He tried to play God. He tries to control the game and he did that tonight.”

Prust had a meeting with Michel Therrien before practice at Amelie Arena on Tuesday and the coach was happy to hear that his player later apologized.

“He’s a competitor,” said Therrien. “He’s had good playoffs for us, he works extremely hard. He hates to lose. When we ended up losing the game, it really hurt him.

“He wanted to apologize and I think he did the right thing.”

Prust ended up getting tossed from Sunday’s game with less than two minutes to play when he tripped goalie Ben Bishop behind the net and fought Coburn. While skating off the ice, he threw one of his elbow pads onto the Lightning bench. In total, he was assessed 31 minutes in penalties on the night.

Shortly after, he spoke with reporters.

“It was tough, it was emotional,” said Prust. “I had just gotten in a fight, we had just lost 6-2 and five minutes later I was doing interviews. I wasn’t myself. My emotions were — my heart was beating, I was agitated — and I shouldn’t have been doing the interviews.” 

The fact it was Watson who called the penalty also factored into the comments. Those two have had run-ins before in the past.

“We’ve both been around a while,” said Prust. “We’ve … gotten into it, we can both be emotional out there sometimes. Sometimes it’s not a good thing. I have to learn to be better that way and keep my emotions in check because it’s not really helping anybody.

“It’s definitely not helping me or my team.”

The Canadiens are facing a 2-0 series deficit to the Lightning heading into back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday.

Prust indicated that he hopes there’ll be no carryover with how he’s treated by other officials — “that’s just a fingers-crossed scenario, but who knows what’s going to happen?” — and refused to comment when asked if referees should be permitted to insult players during the game.

“I really don’t want to get into this,” said Prust. “I really want to move on, and we’re focusing on the team and (trying) to get back in this series. That’s something for another day.”

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