The Montreal Canadiens’ 5-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1 of their second-round series was overshadowed by a scary scene in the final minute.
Canadiens forward Jake Evans was taken off the ice at Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place on a stretcher after he sustained a brutal hit from Jets forward Mark Scheifele while scoring into an empty net with 57 seconds to go.
Evans remained motionless for a significant amount of time as a scrum formed near him following the hit. A linesman and Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers made sure the scrum did not spill onto Evans. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and trainers and medical personnel attended to Evans, placing him on a backboard and taking him out on a stretcher. Evans was moving his arms as he was taken off the ice.
Scheifele, the Jets’ leading scorer in the regular season with 63 points in 56 games, received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for the hit. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will almost certainly be taking a look at the play.
The Canadiens had strong thoughts about the hit postgame.
“It was a dirty hit, but the league is going to take care of it,” Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson said. “If (Scheifele) gets back in the series, we’re going to make his life miserable.”
Said the Habs’ Brendan Gallagher in an interview with Sportsnet: “We’ve all played this game long enough. (Scheifele) knows better than that. I know him. I don’t want to comment too much. We were just told to let the league handle it. We trust that they will, but, I don’t know.
“It’s brutal. Didn’t need to happen. Wrong play. He knows better.”
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Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi called the hit “disgusting.”
“Players should have a little respect for the other players out there,” he added.
Jets coach Paul Maurice offered his well-wishes to Evans in his postgame media availability and offered up his own interpretation of the play.
“Hopefully the young man is going to be all right,” Maurice said, continuing: “It’s such a highly unusual play because you’re backchecking back to kill an empty-net play, you’re coming full speed. When Mark stopped skating he kept his arms in. It’s a heavy, heavy hit. There’s no doubt about that. I’m sure the league will have its opinion.”
Evans – who had not yet been taken to a hospital at the time of Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme’s media availability – skated 17:55 on Wednesday, which marked his 25th birthday. The second-year player got in three games in Montreal’s first-round comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs – including Games 6 and 7.