In the third period of the Canadiens’ 5-3 win over Philadelphia in Game 5 Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena, Gallagher was cross-checked in the face by Flyers defenceman Matt Niskanen. Gallagher fell heavily into the boards and looked dazed on the ice before getting up and returning to the bench with a bloody mouth.
No penalty was called on the play.
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin announced Thursday that Gallagher suffered a broken jaw that will require surgery and force him out of the NHL’s bubble in Toronto. As a result, Gallagher will miss the rest of the series against the Flyers. After meeting with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday, Niskanen was suspended for one game for his hit on Gallagher.
Game 6 of the series is Friday night (7 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio) with the Canadiens trailing the best-of-seven series 3-2.
Earlier in Game 5, Gallagher scored his first goal in nine postseason games as the Canadiens avoided elimination with their victory.
Canadiens coach Kirk Muller held a video conference Thursday morning and was asked about Gallagher’s situation.
“Truthfully, we’re still waiting for feedback … so I really don’t have the news yet,” he said.
When asked if Gallagher would have to leave the NHL bubble for tests, Muller said: “I believe he has not so far left the bubble.”
The NHL’s Return to Play rules state that any player leaving the bubble is required to quarantine in his hotel room after returning until he has received at least four consecutive negative COVID-19 test results over a four-day period.
Ouch ? pic.twitter.com/R0lja9mofZ
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) August 20, 2020
When asked if Gallagher might have to leave the bubble for tests, Muller said: “I guess depending on what stuff he would have to get tested on probably would be a matter of if he has to leave the bubble or not. So it’s depending on what they decide from there.”
After meeting with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday, Niskanen was suspended for one game for his hit on Gallagher.
“We have footage of it from our organization,” Muller said before the hearing. “We sent it in to the league. I think the video will definitely explain what they’ll see. So we’re going to leave it with the league, and we have confidence that the video will show what it shows.”
This isn’t the first time Niskanen has cross-checked a player in the face. During the playoffs three years ago, when he was with the Washington Capitals, Niskanen received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for cross-checking Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in the face. Crosby had to be helped off the ice and didn’t return to the game, but the NHL did not suspend Niskanen for the hit. Crosby was later diagnosed with the fourth concussion of his career as a result of the cross-check.
The Canadiens’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for boarding in Game 5 for a second-period hit on Travis Sanheim.
When asked Thursday whether there might be any supplementary action taken against Kotkaniemi by the NHL, Muller said: “Basically, we’re going to let the league take care of this. I think with KK it’s a debate. We’ll let them decide. For us, we just thought KK … it was a hockey play, finishing his check. Getting a penalty in the game, we could live with that. But after that, I think that’s about the most of it.”
Losing Gallagher is a huge blow to the Canadiens. He tied for the team lead with 22 goals during the regular season and was en route to his third straight 30-goal season before COVID-19 shut things down. Gallagher’s gritty play from the opening faceoff in Game 5 against the Flyers inspired his teammates in a must-win game.
“You know how tough he is, so I would never count him out,” Muller said about the possibility of Gallagher playing in Game 6 and before the news that his jaw was broken. “We saw how he got probably the most impact on that game last night, the way he played from the first shift. The character of that guy and how hard he played. He’s the heartbeat of our team, so I don’t think you can ever question whether he’s going to be in the lineup depending on his situation medically. Like I say, you never count him out because of the character that he has.”
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