The face, encountered in the bowels of Scotiabank Place, was flushed from exertion, and set in concentration.
That it belonged to Bill McCreary, the refereeing supervisor for the first-round series involving the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, said it all.
The former NHL ref was locked in whispered hallway conversation with a couple of colleagues. There was much for them to discuss.
Like the 236 minutes in penalties handed out in game three – including nine game misconducts – and the bitterness expressed right through the final seconds.
There is true hatred in this series, and it is only building.
The Habs, clearly frustrated at being spanked on the scoreboard and taking the brunt of the physical pounding, took the first swing, literally and figuratively.
Then the Senators responded, convincingly.
And, in the considered opinion of their opponents, proceeded to rub the Habs' noses in it.
With 17.8 seconds to play in a fight-filled contest, and leading 6-1, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean called a timeout.
Habs defenceman Josh Gorges was clearly incensed by the move, and started jawing at the Sens’ bench – when the puck was dropped he fired a slap-shot that hit Ottawa’s Kyle Turris.
“We’re short-handed, the job is to get the puck hard down the ice, I had my head down, didn’t see him,” Gorges said through gritted teeth afterward.
Asked about the timeout, he said “I wasn’t very happy about that. There’s 17 seconds left in the game. I don’t know what was said. They have to right to call it. Nothing I can do.”
Habs coach Michel Therrien, who exchanged verbal barbs with MacLean earlier in the series over what he termed “disrespectful” comments concerning a nasty hit on Habs’ centre Lars Eller, took another run at his opposite number.
“They played a good game, there was a lot of emotion in the air, when two teams are competing hard in the playoffs these things can happen,” he began.
“We were beaten by a good team tonight, but one thing’s for sure, the timeout with 17 seconds – that’s pretty rare. You let the players dictate, as a coach you never want to humiliate the other team. That’s exactly what MacLean was trying to do, to me it’s a total lack of class. When I mentioned it to the referee, at 17 seconds, he’s never seen that,” he continued.
MacLean, no shrinking violet, thrust the blame directly back at the Habs.
“Under circumstances instigated by the Montreal Canadiens, I was forced to protect my players,” he said.
When the “classless” barb was mentioned, MacLean said “okay, so this is another disrespectful thing, is it?”
“He said he was humiliated,” added a reporter.
“Well, with all due respect, they were doing a pretty good job of that themselves . . . they didn’t need my help,” he said.
He went on to say that he hopes “it will be a busy night in the department of player safety” and that Gorges – who he didn’t name – and other Habs will have their behaviour scrutinized.
There was a hockey game played as well, incidentally, and it didn’t go well for the Habs, who played into the Senators’ hands by trying to raise the physical and toughness stakes.
“We were embarrassed out there, I was embarrassed personally, I take a lot of the blame in a game like that, it's time to look in the mirror and time to be better,” said Montreal winger Max Pacioretty.
The Habs will also have to contend with an emerging force – under-sized Ottawa centre Pierre-Gabriel Pageau, who potted his first NHL hat trick in his first playoff game in his hometown.
Given the Senators’ long absence from the NHL, there are a lot of people in the National Capital Region who root for the Montreal Canadiens.
The Pageau family of Gatineau is not one of them; their allegiances generally lie with whoever the Habs’ opponent is.
So it’s highly doubtful 20-year-old Jean-Gabriel Pageau, reportedly a childhood Red Wings fan, will have felt any pangs at 4:40 of the second period on Sunday when he burst in alone on the Montreal net, sprung by Sergei Gonchar’s lovely pass.
In the event, he ripped a hard wrist shot past Habs goalie Carey Price’s blocker to give Ottawa a 2-1 lead in a fight-filled contest the Sens dominated 6-1 enroute to taking a 2-1 series lead.
It was Pageau’s first playoff goal in his first home playoff game – a remarkable feat that he’ll also remember for the errant stick he took in the mouth while celebrating.
As his teammates gathered around him in the corner of the rink and spotlights danced around them, Pageau was holding them off and looking for a tooth that had been knocked out (this series has been a boon for team dentists).