Brendan Gallagher had his best game of the postseason Wednesday night in the Canadiens' must-have Game 5 win over the Flyers. It will be his last game action for the foreseeable future.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported Thursday on Twitter that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin informed him the feisty winger will miss the remainder of the team's first-round series vs. Philadephia after having surgery on a broken jaw. LeBrun also reported that Gallagher had to leave the Toronto bubble for the operation.
It is unclear whether Gallagher cannot return for the series because of the broken jaw or because he left the bubble and would need to undergo repetitive testing confirming he is negative for COVID-19.
From Habs GM Marc Bergevin: “Gally has a broken jaw.”— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) August 20, 2020
Bergevin also adds that Gallagher will require surgery and is out for the series— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) August 20, 2020
The injury occurred late in the third period. Gallagher was near the end boards deep in the Flyers' zone when he took a cross-check to the face from Philadelphia's Matt Niskanen. The hit left Gallagher bloodied and, possibly, with fewer teeth. Thursday night, the NHL's Department of Player Safety announced that Niskanen was suspended for one game — which would be Game 6.
"In my estimation, Gallagher got up and seemed fine," Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said Thursday morning, defending his defenseman by calling the hit a "hockey play."
"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," Vigneault added. "Gallagher's a very competitive player, but I don't think it's Nisky's fault that he might not be as tall as some of the other guys but he competes as big, if not bigger, than anybody else. It just seemed like a hockey play that unfortunately cut him a little bit."
Obviously, the Canadiens had a very different take on the play.
"It looks like a cross-check right to the face, pretty much, is how I saw it," defenseman Ben Chiarot said Thursday. "An unsuspecting guy, Gally's in the corner battling for the puck, turns around and gets a mouthful of Niskanen's stick. That's how I saw it."
Earlier in the game, Gallagher scored his first goal of the postseason to give Montreal a 3-2 lead in the must-win contest. It was a big moment for the 5-9, 184-pound winger, who was benched for the majority of the last two frames of Game 4.
"I guess if the coach feels other guys are going to do the job better than you, that’s his job," a frustrated Gallagher said after Game 4.
The second-period power-play tally, which Gallagher produced with a baseball-style swing at the puck, was therefore critical for the player and his team.
"That's the Gally we love and that's what he can bring to a team," said associate coach Kirk Muller postgame. "He brought the guys into the fight tonight. He's a competitor. He's a proud player. He plays hard, he works for every goal he gets and I thought he had an exceptional game."
"He's been getting tons of chances and he's kind of getting down on himself for not scoring but it's nice to get that monkey off his back there," noted Nick Suzuki, who made the pass to set him up. "I was really happy, not the greatest pass by me but he found a way to put it in."
Losing Gallagher is huge for the Canadiens, who will try to push the series to a Game 7 when they play Friday night. He tied for the team lead (with Tomas Tatar) with 22 goals in the regular season and is a known agitator who loves to get the opposition off its game. The Canadiens were 4-7-1 without him in the lineup during the regular season.