'It was a bad play': Habs' Gallagher still on the mend from Flyers hit that broke his jaw

Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) smiles after scoring against the Detroit Red Wings during second period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Monday, March 26, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher figures he could have returned to action mere weeks after suffering a broken jaw on a controversial play in the playoffs.

Instead, Gallagher is left to wonder what could have been after his underdog Habs fell short against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The forward was cross-checked in the face by Flyers defenceman Matt Niskanen during Game 5 of a first-round playoff series in Toronto last month. Gallagher missed Game 6 after a CT scan, while Niskanen also missed the contest due to a one-game suspension.

"It was a bad play," Gallagher said Monday on a videoconference with reporters. "I didn't take anything personal. It's just something that happens and you move on."

Gallagher also revealed he suffered a tear to his hip earlier in the post-season.

Despite the injuries, the Edmonton native hoped to be available for the Canadiens midway through the second round of the playoffs. The Habs ultimately lost to the Flyers in six games.

Following Game 5, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault remarked that Gallagher "seemed fine" after the cross-check and even kept talking with referees.

Gallagher said he didn't read much into Vigneault's comments, but laughed at the notion that they were similar to remarks he made during a series against the New York Rangers, Vigneault's former team, in 2014.

Then-Rangers forward Derek Stepan hurt his jaw after taking a hit from former Canadiens forward Brandon Prust, but Gallagher was initially skeptical over the seriousness of the injury.

"I felt pretty dumb afterward when I found out it actually was broken," Gallagher said about his 2014 comments.

Gallagher says he's gotten past the "uncomfortable" stage of having a broken jaw and has a few dental procedures to go.

Gallagher says he isn't sure how he suffered the hip injury but says it happened during the qualifying-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He hopes to avoid surgery and let the injury heal during his time off before jumping into off-season training.

"It was kind of tough to get through," Gallagher said. "But once we had those four days off (after beating Pittsburgh) and got to prepare for Philly, I think that really helped."

The Canadiens have been busy in their off-season, acquiring goaltender Jake Allen and the rights to pending unrestricted free agent defenceman Joel Edmundson in the past few days. While preliminary discussions have started on a new contract for Gallagher, who could be a free agent in 2021, he knows more changes could be on the horizon if the Canadiens fail to build on their playoff appearance.

"There's definitely a lot of uncertainty," Gallagher said. "We talk to you guys all the time. We love playing together. If we want it to stay that way, we have to start demanding results."

This story by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2020.

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