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Three games does a bitter rivalry make - at least when it comes to the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens. The Eastern Conference first-round series between the Canadian neighbors has quickly devolved into a brawl-filled, vitriol-laced hate fest following a brutal Game 3 in which the seventh-seeded Senators pummeled Montreal physically and on the scoreboard. Ottawa can take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series when it hosts the Canadiens in Tuesday's Game 4.
The teams had never met in the postseason, but they combined for 236 penalty minutes and nine players received game misconducts in the Senators' 6-1 rout Sunday - a contest Ottawa led by only 2-1 after two periods before the game got out of hand in every aspect. There were 14 fighting majors in the third period alone and the sniping extended to behind both benches. Montreal coach Michel Therrien was incensed that the Senators called timeout with only 17 seconds left in the game, calling the move "classless" and accusing counterpart Paul MacLean of trying to "humiliate" his team. MacLean claimed he was "forced to protect" his players. “It got a little bit stupid in the end, but that’s hockey,” MacLean said.
TV: 7 p.m. CNBC, CBC, RDS
ABOUT THE CANADIENS: Montreal captain Brian Gionta, as well as regular-season leading scorer Max Pacioretty, returned to the lineup Sunday after one-game injury absences. Gionta had a glittering chance to get his team back in the game when he broke in alone early in the third period, but his backhander was denied by Craig Anderson. "It was definitely the turning point of the game and it spiraled out of control from there,” Gionta said. Canadiens netminder Carey Price had his second poor performance of the series, allowing six goals on 30 shots. That continued a theme from the regular season that has seen Price hold the opposition under three goals only four times in his last 13 appearances.
ABOUT THE SENATORS: Rookie Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a most unlikely hero in Game 3, registering his first career hat trick. Pageau delivered a memorable go-ahead goal on a shot while his face was bloodied and he lost a tooth on a high stick from Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. "I might put it under my pillow and see what happens," Pageau quipped of the knocked-out tooth. He was not called up from Ottawa's American Hockey League affiliate until last month and entered the series with only nine NHL games on his resume. Still, Pageau is as responsible for this series as any player, scoring the game-winning goal in the regular-season finale versus Boston - a win that allowed Montreal to claim the No. 2 seed and set up the matchup with the Senators.
1. Senators D Eric Gryba, who was suspended two games for his jarring hit on C Lars Eller in Game 1, is eligible to return Tuesday. He is expected to take the place of D Patrick Wiercioch, who was hurt in Game 3.
2. Canadiens RW Brendan Gallagher was among three players named as finalists for the Calder Trophy that goes to the league's top rookie. Gallagher scored 15 goals in the regular season and has two goals in the playoffs.
3. Anderson has turned aside 112 of 118 shots for a save percentage of .949, as compared to Price's .905.
PREDICTION: Senators 3, Canadiens 2