It was a strange night at the Bell Centre.
Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin was ejected in the dying minutes of the first period for interfering with Columbus forward Matt Calvert. His coach, Michel Therrien thought the call was overblown.
With the Canadiens down to five defencemen for the rest of the game, Nathan Beaulieu stepped in to fight Columbus forward Nick Foligno, who had clipped Tomas Fleischmann at his own blueline seconds earlier.
Beaulieu got punched squarely by Foligno, sending him buckling to the ice before he snapped back up.
But Beaulieu served his five minute penalty for fighting and skated over to Montreal’s bench to sit for the remaining 50 seconds of the second period.
Therrien wanted to talk about the 2-1 win his Canadiens pulled off in his 700th game as an NHL coach, but he was peppered about whether or not his team failed to execute the appropriate medical protocol in Beaulieu’s case.
Let’s examine that further and take a look at the other things we learned from this game.
Beaulieu was assessed in between the second and third period
The Canadiens confirmed that Beaulieu did go through concussion protocol in between the second and third periods. What that protocol entailed is unclear.
Had he gone to Montreal’s room rather than directly to the penalty box, he would’ve been sent straight to the quiet room.
“Sitting in the penalty box and sitting in a chair in a dark room; there’s isn’t much of a difference,” said Therrien in French. “In passing, it was a damn nice win tonight.
“He did the protocol between the second and third period, he felt really good and he played a hell of a third period.”
Beaulieu was unavailable for comment thereafter because he was icing his face in the medical room.
Defenceman P.K. Subban mentioned that Beaulieu had a black eye.
League-appointed concussion spotter clarifications
There is a lot of confusion regarding the role of league-appointed concussion spotters, so here are some clarifications.
There is only one spotter appointed by the league for each game.
The spotter only communicates with a team’s medical staff and makes his recommendation that a player go through protocol. It is then up to the medical staff to follow or not follow the recommendation.
League-appointed spotters are not necessarily seated close to the action; some have in fact taken in games from the press boxes of NHL buildings.
It was a peculiar night, as it appeared that Calvert was shaken on Emelin’s hit and Beaulieu was clearly shaken on Foligno’s punch, and yet neither of them went to the quiet room after their respective incidents.
Montreal’s power-play shows killer instinct
The Canadiens struggled on the power play for the entire 2014-15 season. Night after night, they not only failed to score goals, they failed to generate momentum, finishing at just over 16 per cent efficiency.
In 2015-16, Montreal’s power play has been completely revitalized, currently operating at 23.9 per cent (4th overall).
On Tuesday, the Canadiens had failed to cash in on three opportunities before Columbus forward Scott Hartnell tripped Subban with 2:34 left in the third period. The execution on Montreal’s man advantage was flawless.
“Everybody wants to be the difference,” said Max Pacioretty, who scored his fourth power-play goal of the season for the game-winner.
Pacioretty also said that the Canadiens had practiced setting things up on the left side of the ice Tuesday morning — they had previously established a habit of setting things up mostly on the right.
“A team like that pressures so hard, we know we’d have to be able to spread the zone and be able to use both walls,” said Pacioretty. “We only worked on three plays, and that was one of them.”
John Tortorella’s blunt assessment of the game
The Blue Jackets threw 23 shots at Canadiens goaltender Mike Condon. Foligno beat him in the first period on the wrap-around to tie the game 1-1 but the team struggled to generate much else throughout the game.
But they kept it close.
“We played our ass off tonight,” said Tortorella “It’s sloppiness with the penalty [by Hartnell]. Total sloppiness and it cost us.
“We played well enough to win and we found a way to lose. They didn’t beat us; we beat ourselves.”
There are no moral victories in professional sports, but the Blue Jackets can’t be altogether displeased with the way they performed.
Displeasing is another loss, keeping Columbus at the bottom of the Eastern Conference at 10-16-0.
Therrien shuffled the deck
Therrien has been very hesitant to mess with the chemistry of his lines, but opted for major changes between the first and second periods.
Paul Byron, who scored the game’s opening goal, moved up to play with Tomas Plekanec and Tomas Fleischmann. Devante Smith-Pelly shifted down to the fourth line with Brian Flynn and Christian Thomas. And Pacioretty joined David Desharnais and Dale Weise.
“After the first period, I wanted to bring something different; something new, especially to the Desharnais line,” said Therrien. “I really like the way [Pacioretty] responded playing with [Desharnais] and the way [Fleischmann] played with Plekanec. I enjoyed how the guys reacted.”
Therrien didn’t rule out the possibility of keeping his new combinations together.