SPORTS

Subban slash just the beginning of testy series between Habs and Senators

04/16/2015 05:51 EDT | Updated 07/01/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - It didn't take long for the Canadiens and Senators to turn up the heat on their playoff series.

Montreal's 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the first-round series on Wednesday — a game that saw Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban ejected for slashing and injuring Ottawa's Mark Stone — has set the tone for a physical, testy series between the rivals.

"The intensity level is there," said Brendan Gallagher after Montreal's morning skate on Thursday. "Each series takes on its own personality. Whatever you're going to get, you just go in and you have to be ready to compete hard.

"That's what their side is doing and that's what our side is doing."

The Canadiens are anticipating more grit and robustness from the Sens in what has already been a hard-hitting matchup. Ottawa dished out 44 hits to Montreal's 42 in the series opener on Wednesday.

Clarke MacArthur led the visiting team with seven hits, while Montreal's Devante Smith-Pelly and Alexei Emelin each had six.

And all that physical play came before the return of Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil, who's no stranger to mixing it up. Neil will replace the injured Stone, who suffered a right wrist microfracture in Game 1 and is questionable for the rest of the series.

The 215-pound Neil, who practised on the fourth line for Ottawa on Thursday, has not played since fracturing his thumb on Feb. 14.

"Having a guy like Neil out there kind of helps mediate the cheap shots," said defenceman Marc Methot, referring to Subban's second-period slash on Stone. "He knows his role and he's able to play both ways too. Having him out there will certainly help."

Ottawa coach Dave Cameron suggested his team's smart physical play would get the Senators back in the series.

"I hope we're physical on P.K., on Markov, on all their players," Cameron said. "We're not going to sit back. But I'd be disappointed if my team starts chasing any one player around and we lose the series because we couldn't deal with an incident."

The goal for the Canadiens will be to keep their tempers in check and stay out of the penalty box as the series develops.

In Game 1, Montreal's lack of discipline — particularly Subban's — proved costly. Ottawa scored twice on Subban's five-minute slashing major to tie the game 3-3. The Sens finished 2-for-5 with the man advantage.

"You have to keep a cooler head," said Habs forward Brandon Prust. "You don't want to get too frustrated. You have to stick with your game plan. Don't let your emotions get the best of you because that's when you can take some dumb penalties."

Added Subban: "My focus is to try to lead by example here and the first thing is to be more disciplined starting next game. That's it, that's all."

Game 2 goes Friday at the Bell Centre with the Canadiens leading the best-of-seven series 1-0. The teams then head to Ottawa for the following two games.

Notes: Montreal's Max Pacioretty has not been cleared to play by team doctors. He's questionable for Game 2 of the series. … P.A. Parenteau is day-to-day with an upper-body injury sustained in Game 1. He did not skate with the team on Thursday.

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