It did not take long for a potential turning point in the Montreal-Ottawa series to emerge when Senators defenseman Eric Gryba incurred a two-game suspension for an egregious, injurious hit on Habs forward Lars Eller.
Granted, the ruling can be assessed with enough credibility from multiple perspectives, and it would have been easy for the Sens to step out of line over it. It would have been easy for them to gripe over Gryba’s five-minute major and effectively relinquish Game 1 as a result.
Instead, they curtailed the Canadiens' power play well enough to raise the upper hand and usurp home-ice advantage.
Just the same, it would have been easy for Ottawa to be overwhelmed by a Montreal team resolutely rallying around the injured Eller and seizing control of the series by the time Gryba returned to action.
Instead, by Game 3, the second half of Gryba’s suspension, it was self-evident that the Canadiens were the ones unable to keep their cool. Meanwhile, their opponents had moved on after justice was served to their player.
Only four seconds after the Senators took a 4-1 lead in Game 3, a line brawl resulted in a combined 21 penalties, assessed at 7:04 of the third period. Four seconds later, the Senators augmented their lead to 5-1 and another rash of penalties fell in one lump less than 90 seconds thereafter.
That chaotic closing frame in a 6-1 Ottawa victory and the contrasting press conference attitudes of Habs skipper Michel Therrien and Senators coach Paul MacLean all but precipitated Ottawa’s cruise to a five-game series victory.
As it happened, Game 5 was another 6-1 decision characterized by a lopsided third period in both the scoring and discipline departments.