PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — The Flyers will be shorthanded when they look to eliminate the Canadiens in Game 6 Friday night. Defenseman Matt Niskanen has been suspended one game for his cross-check on Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher in the Flyers’ Game 5 loss.
Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen has been suspended one playoff game for cross-checking Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher during the third period of Wednesday's Game 5 of the First Round series.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) August 21, 2020
In the third period, Niskanen’s stick got up in Gallagher’s face to the point he was bleeding from his mouth.
The Canadiens announced Gallagher will miss the rest of the series with a broken jaw that requires him to leave the Toronto bubble for surgery. It’s a big loss for Montreal; associate coach Kirk Muller called Gallagher ”the heartbeat of our team.”
”Gallagher got up and seemed fine,” Vigneault said. ”He was talking to the referees, and the whole time that he was on the bench he was talking to our players for the rest of the game.”
This is the classic Canadiens-Flyers series that history showed was coming. Don’t expect players to engage in an all-out brawl in warmups like Chris Chelios, Ron Hextall and teammates did during the 1987 playoffs, but Game 6 of this first-round series Friday will have plenty of hatred to spread around.
”There’s no doubt that there’s no love between both teams,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”Like we expected, a very competitive series. Like we expected (Wednesday) night, a very competitive game. That’s what hockey’s all about.”
In Game 5, Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s hit on Travis Sanheim led to some stitches and a major penalty and ejection.
Even without Gallagher, there’s still plenty of fight left in the Canadiens, the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference who knocked out Pittsburgh in the qualifying round and keep fighting back after falling behind 3-1 to Philadelphia. Tensions being up in this series for big hits, questionable ones, some post-whistle kerfuffles and even 21-year-old budding star Nick Suzuki patting Flyers goalie Carter Hart on the head after giving up a bad goal.
Desperation only brings the best out of Montreal’s young group.
”It’s playoffs, so every game, the intensity is going to get higher,” forward Charles Hudon said. ”One game, if we lose, we’re out, so I think all our energy’s going to go for the next game and pretty much every single shift. Who cares what they did, who cares what we did, but I’m pretty sure next game’s going to be a good one.”
That’s one thing the Canadiens and Flyers agree on.
”It’s going to be a fun game, for sure,” Philadelphia center Kevin Hayes said. ”I think everyone knows what’s at stake here and I think everyone’s going to bring their A-game.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)