Late Pacioretty goal lifts Canadiens over Blue Jackets 2-1

Late Pacioretty goal lifts Canadiens over Blue Jackets 2-1

Montreal head coach Michel Therrien had to defend his team’s doctors instead of praising the Canadiens’ performance on the ice Tuesday night.

They beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 but the home team’s concussion protocol was put into question after defenceman Nathan Beaulieu took a hit to the head.

Beaulieu and Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno dropped the gloves midway through the second period, with Foligno landing a particularly hard punch in Beaulieu’s face.

Though Beaulieu’s knees buckled after the punch, the Canadiens defenceman did not go to the dressing room to be checked by the team’s medical staff. He went straight to the penalty box instead.

“Nathan went to the penalty box, there were 50 seconds left in the period (when he came out) and he didn’t return to the ice,” said coach Michel Therrien. “The doctors said he passed the (concussion) protocol between the second and third periods. Everything was fine.”

Beaulieu returned to the ice after the second intermission. He played 7:04 of the third.

“If he wasn’t feeling well, he wouldn’t have gone (to the penalty box),” added Therrien. “He felt very good, and then we followed up.”

Beaulieu did not speak to the media after the game. A team official said he was in the medical room.

With the score tied 1-1, Foligno and Beaulieu fought at 10:56 of the second period after the Blue Jackets captain knocked Tomas Fleischmann into the boards with a knee-on-knee hit.

“Beaulieu is a great teammate,” said captain Max Pacioretty, who scored the game winner late in the third period. “It’s the heat of the moment, and he wants to stick up for his teammate. That earns a lot of respect in the room.

“You really are inspired when a teammate steps up like that after what we felt should have been a penalty.”

In the first period, defenceman Alexei Emelin’s served up a late hit on Matt Calvert that earned him a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

The puck was nowhere near Calvert when Emelin raised his shoulder and knocked the Columbus winger down in open ice. Calvert spent several minutes on his knees before retreating to the dressing room.

“It was so much of a blind side, I don’t even know if it was a head shot,” said Calvert, who was back on the ice for the second period. “I was ready to back-check, and next thing I know I was looking down the ice.

“It was at the end of the period, so I had 15 minutes to regroup and figure out where I am again.”

Columbus (10-16-0) failed to score on the five-minute power play.

Paul Byron’s third goal of the season gave Montreal (19-4-3) the early lead at 2:51 of the first. A speedy Byron raced to the front of the net and tipped in a cross-ice saucer pass by Christian Thomas past Sergei Bobrovsky.

Foligno tied things up with a back-handed wrap-around goal at 17:23 of the first after Mike Condon, who stopped 22 shots for his ninth win of the season, got caught too far out of his net.

Condon got the start in place of the injured Carey Price. On Monday, the Habs announced Price would miss at least six weeks with a lower-body injury.

With Scott Hartnell in the box for tripping in the final frame, Pacioretty fired home his team-leading 13th goal of the season, his fourth on the power play, at 17:51.

Montreal has now won six of its last seven versus Columbus, including a three-game season sweep last year.

Sergei Bobrovsky making 24 saves in defeat.

Notes: Therrien coached his 700th NHL game. … Zach Fucale was called up from the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps on Monday. Dustin Tokarksi was sent back down to the minors.

Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press

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