The sting from Saturday’s 3-2 overtime defeat to the New York Rangers in a battle of the top two teams in the NHL’s Eastern Conference might last a little more than 24 hours for the Boston Bruins.
The Northeast Division leaders face another loss when defenceman Andrew Ference has a telephone hearing Sunday morning with the league’s department of player safety after he hit Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh into the boards in the extra period.
Ference was assessed a charging major and game misconduct on the play and then watched New York’s Marian Gaborik score with 3.6 seconds left on the clock to give the Rangers sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.
“The five minutes, obviously, didn’t help the team,” Ference said, “but on top of that you just hope you didn’t put a guy in a bad spot. It’s a bad feeling both ways.
A phone hearing carries a maximum penalty of five games.
“The biggest question is, is McDonagh hurt seriously, badly, at all?” Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman said during Saturday’s Hotstove segment.
Ference could miss Sunday’s matinee contest against the hometown Philadelphia Flyers and perhaps more games.
The Edmonton native has never been suspended but had a couple of close calls in the first round of last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Ference was fined $2,500 US for giving Montreal fans the one-finger salute and in Game 7 stuck his shoulder into Jeff Halpern’s head.
“Ference dumped the puck, he went to chase it, we’ve seen it a thousand times,” said HNIC analyst Mike Milbury of Saturday’s incident. “McDonagh slowed down a bit and [Ference] gave him a shove along the back, near the hips, maybe just below the numbers and to me, it looked like McDonagh’s left leg got caught in a rut and he just couldn’t get away [from the hit].
“This was not manslaughter for me. He made a mistake, he did it from behind, he’s gonna have to suffer some consequences because it’s the new rules.
“We would have saw that [play] a thousand times [when I played in the ‘70s and ‘80s] and nobody would have gone to the penalty box.”
Friedman said a couple of people he talked to compared Ference’s hit to when St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart hammered Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall into the boards from behind last November.
Stewart sat out three games in what was his first NHL suspension.
During his Coach’s Corner segment on HNIC, Don Cherry said a Rangers player should have held up a charging Ference, but added the NHL’s rules on obstruction don’t allow for that to happen.
“Remember I said last year … you’re going to have defencemen going back [behind the goal line] to get the puck and [the forwards are] going to come like buzz bombs and nail ‘em,” said Cherry. “And you’re going to have a lot of defencemen hurt.”
Rangers head coach John Tortorella said Saturday’s hit was one of the more dangerous ones he has seen in some time.
Bruins bench boss Claude Julien defended Ference, saying the hit looked worse because McDonagh was off-balance.
“Andrew Ference is not a dirty player,” the coach said. “He’s a guy who is trying to support what the league is trying to do as far as preventing injuries.”