MONTREAL - Nicolas Deslauriers grew up just 15 minutes from the Canadiens’ arena and used to go to games with his dad. He knows what Montreal’s players mean to Quebec, so he knows what was going through the minds of fans Thursday night as P.K. Subban was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher with a neck injury.
“You don’t wish anything to somebody like that,” Deslauriers said after the Sabres’ 3-2 loss in Bell Centre. “I hope he gets better. You wish the best for P.K. He’s the face of the franchise and a big NHL star.”
Subban was sent to the hospital for testing after a freak play with 2:26 to go. Subban fell to his knees while battling Sabres forward Marcus Foligno for the puck, and Montreal teammate Alexei Emelin skated in to bump Foligno. Instead, Emelin caught Subban on the top of the head.
The defenseman immediately threw off his gloves and thrashed on the ice. He was stabilized by Montreal’s athletic trainer, who soon had help from staff on both teams. They loaded Subban onto a stretcher as Sabres and Habs players gathered near the door to Montreal’s bench.
“It’s always scary when you see doctors go on the ice and you don’t know what’s going on,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said.
The Canadiens announced Subban had normal movement in his extremities.
“Obviously, it’s a scary situation,” Foligno said. “You never want to see a player get injured like that and be taken off on a stretcher.”
The incident sapped much of the energy from a building that roared when Torrey Mitchell snapped a 2-2 tie with 6:39 to play. The loss ruined a special night for Deslauriers.
The Quebec native opened the scoring with his first goal against the Habs. He smiled broadly with several family members in the stands and his parents watching on television down the road.
“It felt great,” Deslauriers said. “You grow up just watching the Canadiens and it’s fun, but getting a goal is a little touch more. Obviously, it’s fun. It’s a historic building and it’s always fun to come here.”
The Sabres’ other goal came from former Montreal captain Brian Gionta.
“It’s always special when you’re playing your old team, but it would have been nicer to get the win,” Gionta said.
Both of Buffalo’s goals came on deflections in front. Deslauriers got his stick on Jake McCabe’s floater, while Gionta got a piece of Evander Kane’s low shot.
“That’s a spot I’ve got to get better at, just get in there with my big body, get a piece on it, and you never know what’s going to happen,” Deslauriers said. “Those tips are not really a skill thing. It’s just to get good wood on it and put it toward the net.”
Deslauriers also got the crowd’s attention with a second-period fight with Mike Brown. The Canadiens forward asked Deslauriers to drop the gloves during the first period.
“The timing there wasn’t great,” Deslauriers said. “We had the momentum. I scored and they scored right away. We kind of came flat for two shifts, so that’s why I think I stepped up there and tried to get a little boost.”