John Moore’s vicious blindside hit on Canadiens winger Dale Weise halfway through the third period of Game 5 between New York and Montreal may not only be what gets the Rangers defenseman suspended. It may also be the rallying point for the Habs in the Eastern Conference final, which now heads back to Manhattan for Game Six after the Blueshirts fell 7-4 to Montreal.
Moore blindsided Weise on a late hit that knocked the Habs’ winger loopy – and knocked the helmet off his head, which Moore was clearly targeting – and forced him to the league’s “quiet” room. Weise’s first instinct, other than trying to regain his bearings, was to go after Moore, but Canadiens teammate P.K. Subban wisely guided Weise away and allowed Moore’s act to speak for itself. And boy, does it ever.
It says “suspend me”. It says “this series wasn’t nasty enough yet, so let’s take out one of Montreal’s most important foot soldiers and see if that doesn’t get the Canadiens hating the Rangers as much as they hate the Bruins”. It says the Rangers will be either losing depth in Moore for Game Six, or they’ll be facing an enraged Habs team if the NHL finds some excuse to not suspend Moore.
It’s not as if the Rangers didn’t have enough to worry about before Moore needlessly launched into Weise with his elbow following directly into Weise’s head as the first point of contact. They didn’t get Henrik Lundqvist’s best game (the star netminder was yanked at the 8:58 mark of the second period after surrendering four goals on 19 shots) and they couldn’t solve Montreal goalie Dustin Tokarski in the third period despite outshooting the Canadiens 11-4. If the Rangers can’t close out the series at Madison Square Garden Thursday, they could easily be overwhelmed by the thunderous atmosphere of the Bell Centre in their return for Game Seven and the Habs could complete another miraculous series comeback.
Thanks to Moore’s ill-considered actions, it will be easier for Montreal coach Michel Therrien to rally the Habs to force a Game Seven. And if there’s any justice, Moore will be watching both Games Six and Seven – or Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final – from the sidelines.