10:35 PM ET
- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans was taken off the ice on a stretcher following what his teammates called a “disgusting” and “dirty” hit from Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele in the final seconds of Wednesday night’s second-round playoff series opener.
With 56.9 seconds remaining in Montreal’s 5-3 Game 1 victory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Evans scored an empty-net goal on a wraparound from behind the Jets’ net. As he did, Scheifele skated into him at full speed, with his right arm tucked to his body, and collided with Evans. The Canadiens forward fell hard to the ice, with the right side of his head hitting first. Evans dropped his stick and remained down as Winnipeg and Montreal players tangled around him.
Evans left the ice on a stretcher about eight minutes later, giving a thumbs-up sign. Scheifele was given a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct.
Scheifele will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Thursday.
Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme said Evans had not been taken to the hospital but was under evaluation.
“I think it’s pretty obvious they’re going to look at the incident, and we’re confident that the league is going to make the right decision,” Ducharme said.
Canadiens players were outraged about the hit after the game. Forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi called the play “disgusting.” Defenseman Joel Edmundson vowed revenge on Scheifele.
“It was a dirty hit. But the league’s going to take care of it. If he gets back in the series, we’re going to make his life miserable,” Edmundson said.
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice bristled when told about that comment.
“The players will sort things out on the ice,” he said. “No one would ever be stupid enough to say anything premeditated going into the next game.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Friday night in Winnipeg.
Evans, 24, had found a spot in the Montreal lineup during the playoffs as a winger with center Phillip Danault and winger Brendan Gallagher, a trio that played a vital role in the Canadiens’ upset win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
“It’s tough. It’s a huge win for us, but it was emotional out there in the end,” Canadiens winger Corey Perry said. “We’re going to talk to him and see how he’s doing.”