After his Canadiens made a statement in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal against Ottawa, head coach Michel Therrien made one of his own.
“By the way, number 61 is Raphael Diaz,” he told reporters following the contest. “Just in case they don’t know.”
Therrrien’s comment was in response to Sens head coach Paul MacLean, who suggested Diaz was responsible for Eric Gryba’s hit on Lars Eller in Game 1.
Diaz was roundly criticized for throwing Eller a suicide pass.
MacLean took it a step further by claiming he didn’t know who Diaz was.
“I thought player 61, if I’m … was it Eller that got hit? I’m really mad at player 61, whoever he is,” MacLean said during his postgame press conference. “Because he passed me the puck in the middle of the rink when I wasn’t looking, and that’s always been a dangerous place.”
It’s possible Friday’s performance made MacLean aware of who Diaz is.
While he wasn’t the star of Friday’s 3-1 victory — that honor went to goalie Carey Price, who stopped 30 of 31 shots — the Swiss blueliner was definitely a factor.
Diaz played 22:49 (only PK Subban saw more ice) and finished with four shots, four blocks, three hits and a plus-1 rating.
He was also the catalyst for a pretty good line from his head coach, who did a masterful job of rallying his troops.
Montreal won Game 2 despite being without Eller, leading scorer Max Pacioretty and captain Brian Gionta, yet seemed to play with a renewed desire for victory.
Chalk it up to Therrien, who showed the utmost confidence in his group.
“I didn’t ask my team to bounce back,” he said. “I told them to play the same way. As a coach this is the only thing I ask.”