Brendan Gallagher was involved from start to finish as he returned to the ice Tuesday after missing eight games with a lower-body injury.
Gallagher scored the game’s opening goal at 2:31 of the first period and was front and centre in the final minute of the 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators when he ignited an all-hands-on-deck brawl by taking a shot at Ottawa’s Tim Stützle.
Gallagher said he was frustrated by the way Stützle plays the game.
“When I was 10 years old, our coach had a rule,” explained Gallagher. “If you lay on the ice — we didn’t have trainers — if the coach had to come on the ice and get you, you’re too hurt to play. You had to sit for a minimum three shifts.”
“(Stützle is) a great player. I’ve played against him for two, three years now. More than half the games we’ve played against him, he’s laid on the ice and he’s right back out there next shift. He lays on the ice. He acts like he’s hurt. He sells the call. He’s on the ice that same power play. You know, there’s kids watching. We’re role models. If I was a teammate of his, I’d tell him to smarten up. It’s just not a good look. Very talented player, very good player. He needs to stop laying on the ice. It’s embarrassing.”
Gallagher was referring to a penalty that was called on Nick Suzuki for kneeing late in the second period. It was a play that generated some hard feelings — Brady Tkachuk exchanged words with Suzuki as the teams left the ice at period’s end. The penalty carried over into the third period and Stützle was on the ice when Drake Batherson scored what proved to be the winning goal.
For a different perspective on the incident, Tkachuk came to Stützle’s defence.
“He’s a top player, so it’ll be stupid for a team to not go after him,” said Tkachuk. “But then, he handles it perfectly. Of course, they got that little trip in there at the end of the second. He’s such a big part of our team and he doesn’t back away from anything.”
Gallagher scored from a familiar spot in front of the net, and while coach Martin St. Louis said Gallagher’s net-front presence is a plus, he wants the veteran to expand his game.
“As you progress in this league and reach your later years, you try to evolve,” said St. Louis. “You don’t lose what you have as players, but you have to try and evolve. Is it easier to learn a language at two years old? Absolutely. But you can still learn a language at 24, 25. You have to put in the work and Gally has to do it.”
Rookie Justin Barron scored his first NHL goal, but the 20-year-old finished the night in the clinic after he suffered a leg injury in a collision with Mathieu Joseph while trying to prevent an empty-net goal.
“J.B. is just a hockey player,” said St. Louis. “He’s not intimidated by the NHL. He jumps on the ice and I think he knows the lines will be in the same places, as will the boards and the size of the rink. He just plays hockey. He’s not scared. I am very satisfied with the small sample (of his game) so far.
“(Barron) played a good game. I’m happy that he scored his first goal, and I’m very happy with the work of our young defenders.”
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