Montreal Gazette

Gallagher's hit on Pelech brings 5-game suspension

Veteran winger had phone hearing with Player Safety

- HERB ZURKOWSKY hzurkowsky@postmedia.com twitter.com/herbzurkow­sky1

While many in the Canadiens organizati­on were reluctant Friday to discuss Brendan Gallagher's nasty hit from the night before, Michael Pezzetta had no qualms coming to his teammate's defence.

“The guy's not a dirty player,” Pezzetta said following the team's brief morning practice at the CN Sports Complex in Brossard. “He has played over 700 games in the NHL. He has never been suspended. He plays hard, battles hard in front of the net. You just never want to see something like that happen, but the game happens fast. It's just one of those plays.”

Gallagher, the veteran 31-yearold winger, was on the ice for practice Friday but wasn't made available to the media. He had a phone hearing at noon with the league's Department of Player Safety, following his illegal third-period check on New York Islanders defenceman Adam Pelech.

On Friday evening, word came down that Gallagher had been suspended for five games, the maximum allowed when a hearing is over the phone, and not in-person.

Gallagher received a five-minute major and match penalty for an elbow to the head of Pelech, who went to the team's dressing room after regaining his senses. Pelech missed 21 games last season with a concussion after being checked into the boards by St. Louis defenceman Robert Bortuzzo during a Dec. 6 game.

“I think we all saw what happened,” new Islanders head coach Patrick Roy said after the game. “I'm sure the league's going to review it. What (else) can I say for now?”

The visitors, trailing 3-1 at the time of the penalty, scored two power-play goals, only to have Montreal's Sean Monahan score the winner, his second of the game, 80 seconds later.

The Canadiens are in Pittsburgh on Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, Citytv, TVA Sports, TSN Radio-690, 98.5 FM), their final match before a weeklong bye, during which the team won't practice or play. Gallagher is expected to be replaced in the lineup by Jesse Ylönen, a healthy scratch the last three games.

Jake Allen is scheduled to start in net, according to head coach Martin St. Louis, who will spend the week in Connecticu­t with his family. Allen is coming off a 4-1 loss to Ottawa on Tuesday, though the final Senators' goal was into an empty net.

“I'm hoping (to see) continuity,” St. Louis said. “Our third period against Ottawa and the way we started (Thursday) night. Obviously we shot ourselves in the foot with the penalties. I'm hoping to have some continuity with our team play, stay out of the box and give ourselves the best chance

You just never want to see something like that happen, but the game happens fast. It's just one of those plays.

to finish on a good note, go on our break and hit the reset button.”

While St. Louis did his best to come to Gallagher's defence, stating players who aren't intense never get penalized, he wasn't as accommodat­ing of Arber Xhekaj's gestures. The hulking 6-foot-4, 240-pound defenceman has been penalized three times — two against the Islanders — in two games since being recalled from AHL Laval. And St. Louis clearly is starting to lose patience, simply saying Thursday night he didn't like Xhekaj's penalties.

Xhekaj understand­s he must curb his lack of discipline.

“I started off pretty well, but once I got those two penalties, I kind of hurt the team a little bit,” Xhekaj said. “I've got to figure out how to stay out of the box.”

 ?? PIERRE OBENDRAUF ?? Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher dives toward a loose puck while getting tangled up with Islanders' Adam Pelech during Thursday's game at the Bell Centre.
PIERRE OBENDRAUF Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher dives toward a loose puck while getting tangled up with Islanders' Adam Pelech during Thursday's game at the Bell Centre.

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