Jeff Petry’s young sons were warned by their mother that dad looked a little different.
A hand injury suffered by the Canadiens defenceman in Game 3 of Montreal’s series against the Winnipeg Jets had also eventually resulted in broken blood vessels in both of his eyes.
It gave the soft-spoken blue-liner a demonic look that startled his children — despite Julie Petry’s best efforts to calm their fears.
“Kids were at school when I came home,” Petry recalled Thursday. “(They) didn’t want to look at me and decided that I would be the villain and they’d be the super heroes and we started playing.”
“That got them to relax and feel a little bit more comfortable.”
Petry wasn’t a super hero Wednesday night, but his return to the lineup helped the Canadiens secure a 3-2 victory in Sin City to even their semifinal matchup with the heavily favoured Vegas Golden Knights 1-1.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven showdown goes Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Petry was hurt June 6 when his right hand got caught in one of the holes photographers and television camera operators use along the glass. He departed that game, wasn’t available when Montreal completed a sweep of Winnipeg the following night, and sat out the opener against Vegas.
The 33-year-old was confident he’d suit up Wednesday after coming through the morning skate while sporting a specially made glove, but he didn’t take line rushes in warmups and was initially scratched before being added to the game sheet just prior to puck drop.
Once in the lineup, it didn’t take long for TV viewers and social media users to notice Petry’s eerie, blood-tinged eyes.
“He’s scary looking,” Canadiens goaltender Carey Price joked following his ninth victory of the post-season. “But he’s obviously a big part of our team and played a big game.”
Montreal head coach Dominique Ducharme, who also got defenceman Jon Merrill back after he was injured during the Canadiens’ stunning comeback win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, said his team wasn’t being coy with Petry’s status.
“He was confident he was gonna play, but we needed to talk to the doctors, we needed to have the green light,” Ducharme said Thursday morning before Montreal flew home. “They wanted to make sure everything was fine.”
“There’s no game there.”
Petry, who doesn’t have any vision issues, finished second on the Canadiens with 42 points during the pandemic-shortened regular season, and has four assists in 11 outings in these playoffs with the Original Six franchise now just three victories from the Stanley Cup final.
“It is the most important time of the year,” he said after logging nearly 21 minutes Thursday. “With any injury that you’re dealing with, you’re trying to cut the timeline down and get out there as quick as possible.”
Normally a player with terrific puck-handling skills, Petry said he’ll have to continue relying on his skating and stick work to get by in the defensive zone with his hand still ailing.
“It’s come along,” he said. “It was something that needed to get time — talking with the doctors, getting a timeline and coming up with what made sense, but what was realistic.
“It was just a matter of when I felt like I could play without hurting the team.”
That was certainly the case in Game 2.
Tyler Toffoli led the Canadiens offensively throughout the regular season.
Not much has changed in the playoffs.
The winger, who had 28 goals in 52 games in 2021, has 12 points in 13 contests this spring. Toffoli is also on an eight-game point streak — one back of the franchise record shared by Guy Lafleur (1977) and Larry Robinson (1978).
Fleury heading home
Golden Knights netminder Marc-Andre Fleury is looking forward to playing in his home province for the first time since before the pandemic because of COVID-19 border restrictions.
The Canadiens will have 3,500 fans in attendance at the Bell Centre for Games 3 and 4 — up 1,000 as coronavirus rules continue to loosen in Quebec — but the 36-year-old is only focused on what happens between the whistles.
“I haven’t been back in a little while,” said Fleury, a native of Sorel-Tracy, about an hour’s drive northeast of Montreal. “It’s always a building that’s fun to play in. It’s usually pretty loud.
“But the goal is the same — just go in and grab the win.”
Perry living the dream
Montreal forward Corey Perry fell in love with the Canadiens as a kid when his father was an Ontario Provincial Police officer not far from the Quebec border in New Liskeard, Ont.
After playing his entire career in the U.S., the 36-year-old former Hart Trophy winner and 2007 Stanley Cup champion signed with his childhood team for US$750,000 right before training camp.
And he couldn’t be happier.
“To put on that jersey each and every night and play for this franchise, it’s a special feeling,” said Perry, who has three goals and five assists in the post-season. “It’s been a dream come true.”
“But there’s a lot of work left to be done.”