Dan Di Sciullo - NHL Editor Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Prior to meeting in the 2013 playoffs, there wasn't much of a rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators.
That all changed during a chippy series two years ago and it didn't take long for the physical side of things to get going here in 2015.
Much like they were in 2013, the Senators are once again underdogs against the Canadiens. Ottawa upset Montreal in the previous playoff encounter and part of the reason was the Sens knocked the Habs off their game thanks to one controversial play. The Canadiens began focusing more on winning battles after the whistle and soon found themselves out of the playoffs in five games.
If the Senators aren't careful, the same thing could happen to them.
Montreal won Game 1 by a 4-3 count, and although there were plenty of goals, to talk about the opener has been boiled down to one moment.
That moment, of course, involved Montreal's P.K. Subban, who slashed Ottawa's Mark Stone midway through the second period, causing a microfracture and ligament damage in the latter player's wrist. As far as slashes go, it was an ugly one and Subban was hit with a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Many folks, including Ottawa head coach Dave Cameron, felt the NHL should go further and suspend the Canadiens' star defenseman, but the league did not agree. That means Subban will be on the ice Friday night for Game 2 in Montreal, and judging by words spoken from the Sens coach, there is some reason to believe Ottawa will have revenge on its mind. It also doesn't help that the Senators received 26 penalty minutes for initiating some rough stuff after the final horn sounded on Wednesday, possibly setting the stage for an eventful night at the Bell Centre.
"I think it's quite simple," Cameron said after Wednesday's loss. "It's a vicious slash on an unprotected part of his body and you either do one of two things. I think it's an easy solution: You either suspend him or one of their best players gets slashed and you just give us five. It's not that complicated."
More fuel was thrown on the fire by Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray and Stone. Murray said Subban threatened Stone before following through with the slash, echoing Stone's accusation that "(Subban) tried to target me a couple of times off face-offs."
Stone, who posted 64 points as rookie in 2014-15, is too valuable to the Senators to be the guy who aims for payback in Game 2. Of course, he may not even be in the lineup because Ottawa is saying his status for the rest of the series is in question.
Whether he plays or not, none of Stone's teammates should be focusing on revenge, either. They should avoid the temptation to exact retribution not only for the obvious reason that the league will be keeping a close watch on Ottawa's actions, especially after Cameron's inflammatory remarks, but also because it won't help the club get back in this series.
Enough guys on Ottawa's current roster played in the 2013 series against the Habs and should have learned what can happen when payback becomes too much of a focus.
In the opening game two years ago, Ottawa's Eric Gryba delivered a nasty and illegal check on Montreal forward Lars Eller, injuring Eller and knocking him out for the remainder of the series. Like Subban, Gryba was given a major and ejected from the game, but he also earned a two-game suspension.
After dropping Game 1, Montreal responded with a win to tie the series, but the Habs melted down soon after that. The clubs combined for 236 penalty minutes in Game 3 and when the smoke cleared, Ottawa won the wild contest, 6-1. Two games later and the Senators had completed the shocking upset with another 6-1 triumph in Game 5.
Perhaps, Ottawa is still better equipped than the Canadiens to take care of business on the physical end and still win the series in the long run. But, on Friday night, it runs the risk of letting emotions get in the way of the primary goal -- tying the series and getting this playoff run back on track.
"You're fighting for your life now," said Sens forward Clarke MacArthur. "It's about keeping them in check. There's going to be dirty stuff that goes on in the games. Sometimes you've got to just take it, and when you get a chance to hand it back out, you do that, too."
The veteran MacArthur may know the difference between playing physical or being dirty, but some of his younger teammates may not.
On Friday, we'll see what type of Ottawa team shows up to the rink. It could be one seeking to exact physical revenge on Subban. Or the Sens could take a smarter route and try to get their payback on the scoreboard.