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Ottawa Senators' Chris Neil (25) fights with Travis Moen (32) during the third period of game three of the first round of Stanley Cup hockey action on May 5, 2013 in Ottawa. Ottawa beat Montreal 6-1. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Ottawa Senators' Chris Neil (25) fights with Travis Moen (32) during the third period of game three of the first round of Stanley Cup hockey action on May 5, 2013 in Ottawa. Ottawa beat Montreal 6-1.

(Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

NHL Playoffs

Senators dominate fight-filled game to take 2-1 series lead on Habs Add to ...

“I only lost one today. I wish I could lose another one at the beginning of the next one,” he laughed.

Pageau, who played junior for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Gatineau Olympiques, is far from the Sens’ most-heralded prospect; the 20-year-old was a fourth-round draft pick and was a fourth-liner in the minors to start the season, but has come on by leaps and bounds.

From marginal prospect to being serenaded with cries of “Pa-geau, Pa-geau, Pa-geau” – it’s been a wild ride.

“I hope I can keep it up,” he smiled.

Pageau, who scored two game-winning-goals in the regular season, is providing the key offensive punch for Ottawa in a series that started nasty and has only deteriorated from there.

He seems to be quite effective at this goal-scoring thing, and added another in the second minute of the third period to give Ottawa a 3-1 lead, becoming the youngest Senator to score two in a game in the post-season (Daniel Alfredsson and Rene Bourque had traded first period power-play goals).

And with two minute left in the game, the hats came raining down as Pageau buried a power-play goal past Price.

“He’s going to have a hard time getting across the bridge tonight,” said MacLean.

By the time the puck was fished out of the net, the game was well and truly over, and the Habs’ humiliation complete.

After Turris made it 4-1 at 7:04 of the third period, and the ill will in this series spilled over in spectacular fashion.

Therrien threw out his fourth line, MacLean responded in kind, Ottawa’s Zack Smith cross-checked Montreal’s Ryan White, White replied with a vicious slash, and then everything went sideways.

All 10 players on the ice shed their gloves in a massive line brawl that was reminiscent of hockey’s wild and woolly era in the 1970s.

With the crowd in a frenzy, Ottawa tough guy Matt Kassian waved his arms to encourage them further. Smith and Chris Neil left the ice with their arms raised.

“I always do that,” Neil said later, “that’s my thing.”

The net result was a Sens power-play, winger Jakob Silfverberg snapped a shot past Price to make it 5-1 eight seconds after the gloves and sticks were picked up.

As the benches became sparsely populated – 126 penalty minutes were doled out over just 1:27 in playing time – the ill will showed no signs of abating.

The Habs’ P.K. Subban, who was a target for Ottawa fore-checkers all night, dropped the gloves with former World Junior teammate Turris, earning an instigator and a misconduct.

Montreal rookie Brendan Gallagher scrapped with fellow pint-sized rookie Cory Conacher – who was later cross-checked by Rene Bourque.

While much attention will doubtless be lavished on the side-show elements to this game, the over-riding narrative is that Ottawa coach Paul MacLean succeeded in coaxing more competitiveness and physical involvement out of his team.

With the advent of the playoffs comes a new set of requirements.

The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators are not names that immediately leap to mind as two of the heavier-hitting teams in the NHL.

But in the three games they’ve played in the post-season, they’ve been smashing and banging each other with abandon.

The Canadiens led the hit parade in dominating game two (a 3-1 Montreal win), and there’s no way Ottawa was going to let them do it again in their home building.

Hits aren’t the most reliable stat that the NHL keeps, but the Sens do tend to play the body more at home and so it was on Sunday.

Just 19 seconds into the game, Subban was lining up Senators winger Erik Condra for a hit along the boards, but Condra saw him coming and smoked Subban with what looked suspiciously like a cross-check to the face.

Subban fell to the ice clutching his face, the referees were unmoved, and play carried on.

Neil freely allowed before the game that “we want to be hard on (Andrei) Markov and Subban. They’re guys we’ve got to finish checks on if we want to wear them down. If they’re playing 28 minutes a night, we want to make it a hard 28 minutes.”

Neil was true to his word.

In the middle of the first period, Montreal’s Brandon Prust steamrolled Ottawa’s Jared Cowen; within seconds, Neil slammed into Habs defenceman Josh Gorges and then buried Prust with a hit near the boards.

A few moments later, Subban was sent crashing to the ice by Colin Greening.

The Sens’ deployment of the tenderizer may well have had the desired effect.

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