(SportsNetwork.com) - Andrew Hammond and the Ottawa Senators will try to bounce back from a close loss when they visit the Montreal Canadiens on Friday for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Behind stellar goaltending from Hammond, the Senators finished the regular season with a 21-3-3 record to claim the first wild card spot in the East. However, "The Hamburglar" couldn't come through for Ottawa in the opener of this best-of-seven series, as the Atlantic Division champion Canadiens posted a 4-3 triumph at the Bell Centre.
Hammond, who went 20-1-2 with a 1.79 goals against average for Ottawa this season, yielded four goals on 39 shots in Wednesday's loss. He had only surrendered more than three goals twice in 23 outings during his star-making turn during the regular season.
Ottawa's goalie hopes to rebound tonight with a better performance in his second career playoff game.
Montreal, meanwhile, grabbed the 1-0 series lead despite playing without its leading scorer and the loss of its best defenseman. Top-line winger Max Pacioretty, who led the Canadiens with 37 goals and 67 points this season, was unable to play because of an upper-body injury, while star blueliner P.K. Subban was ejected midway through the contest for slashing Ottawa's Mark Stone.
Brian Flynn led the way on offense in Pacioretty's absence, posting a goal and two assists while scoring the game-winning marker late in the second period. Carey Price, a Hart and Vezina Trophy candidate, stopped 30 shots for the victory.
Lars Eller, Torrey Mitchell and Tomas Plekanec also scored for the Habs in a lively and physical start to the series. Mitchell and Plekanec's scores came just 15 seconds apart in the second period, marking the fastest two goals in a playoff game for the franchise since Turner Stevenson and Vincent Damphousse scored 10 seconds apart against Buffalo on May 8, 1998
The most controversial moment of Game 1 came midway through the second period when Subban was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his slash on Stone. The penalty came at the 8:23 mark, only 15 seconds after Montreal grabbed a 2-1 lead on Plekanec's tally. Ottawa's Kyle Turris also was whistled for roughing at 8:23.
"I agree it was a slashing penalty. On our standpoint, I don't agree it deserved five minutes," said Montreal coach Michel Therrien.
Ottawa coach Dave Cameron obviously wasn't pleased about the play and believed Subban should face further discipline with a suspension. He will not get his wish, however, as Subban was not suspended and will play in Friday's contest.
"I think it's quite simple: It's a vicious slash on an unprotected part of the body," said Cameron.
Turris evened the score with a power-play marker at 2-2 shortly after exiting the penalty box, but Montreal regained the lead with a short-handed tally from Eller at 11:42 of the second period. Mika Zibanejad added another power-play goal for Ottawa at the 12:36 mark, but Flynn would put the Habs ahead for good with an even strength goal with 2:43 left in the wild middle period.
Fittingly, a skirmish broke out between the players on the ice at the end of the game. The Senators wound up getting 26 of their 30 penalty minutes in the game for their actions after the final horn sounded.
"You're fighting for your life now," said Clarke MacArthur, who was at the center of the game-ending conflict. "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. It's fun hockey to be in. It's just too bad we let one slip tonight."
Erik Karlsson and Patrick Wiercioch both had two assists for the Sens, who could be without Stone after he suffered a microfracture of his right wrist following the slash from Subban. Stone, who tied for the NHL rookie lead in points this season with 64, left briefly after the incident but did return to the game. His status for Game 2 and the rest of this series is unknown.
Pacioretty is also questionable for Game 2. He hasn't played since suffering what is rumored to be a concussion on April 5.
This marks the second playoff meeting between the Habs and Sens. Ottawa won the previous postseason encounter in quick fashion, taking the 2013 conference quarterfinals matchup in five games. Montreal was a heavily-favored No. 2 seed heading into that series before getting knocked off by the seventh-seeded Senators.
The venue will change from Montreal to Ottawa following tonight's contest. Game 3 is set for Sunday with the fourth meeting scheduled for Wednesday night in Canada's capital city.