BOSTON (AP) – There is already bad blood in the Bruins-Canadiens playoff series, some of it flowing from near the right eye of Boston rookie defenseman Matt Hunwick.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said it appeared Mike Komisarek had gouged Hunwick’s eye after the final buzzer of Thursday night’s series opener, won 4-2 by Boston. Hunwick said he wasn’t sure. Komisarek dismissed the claim with a Three Stooges reference.

“It’s a bit of a ridiculous statement,” the Canadiens defenseman said Friday. “I’ve never been a guy who is Moe, Larry and Curley try to poke someone’s eye out. It’s playoff hockey.”

Komisarek and Hunwick clashed after the final buzzer of Game 1. Hunwick said they rubbed each other’s faces. But was his eye gouged?

“I couldn’t tell, to be honest with you,” Hunwick said after Friday’s practice. “I know he was face-washing me, I was face-washing him, so it’s one of those things where in the heat of the moment you can’t really tell and I’m not here to make any accusations, that’s for sure.”

What does seem certain is that the intensity of a series between already fierce rivals picked up going into Saturday night’s second game. Montreal has won 24 of the 32 playoff series between the teams, but the Bruins are the top-seeded club in the East while the Canadiens are eighth.

Zdeno Chara gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead with 8:35 left in the opener and Phil Kessel added an empty-net goal with 13.4 seconds to go. Then Kessel was targeted by Maxim Lapierre, who received a misconduct and a minor for roughing.

A crosschecking penalty against Montreal’s Josh Gorges helped set up the go-ahead goal.

“I have to be smarter. I’m not a guy that takes a lot of penalties and it was a dumb play,” Gorges said. “I’m sure the physical play will pick up (Saturday). As the series goes on, there will become more and more of a hatred between the two teams. I think you saw it toward the end of the game (Thursday) night.”

If the Canadiens were trying to intimidate the speedy Kessel, Boston’s leader with 36 goals this season, or goad him into retaliation, it might not work. The Bruins intend to play physically but avoid costly penalties.

“We’re just going to focus on those things,” forward Mark Recchi said, “playing physical hockey, but, at the same time, knowing that we’re going to control our emotions and play the right way.”

Kessel had two goals and an assist in the opener of his second NHL playoff series. In last year’s elimination by the top-seeded Canadiens in seven games, he was benched in Games 2, 3 and 4. He then scored a goal in the fifth game and two more in the sixth before the Bruins’ upset hopes ended.

Boston, trying to get out of the first round for the first time since 1999, was 5-0-1 in the regular season against Montreal. But Thursday’s game wasn’t decided until Kessel put a shot into an empty net.

“I thought we had a pretty good game,” Montreal forward Alex Kovalev said. “We created a lot of chances, but it doesn’t matter how we play, how many chances we created, the results weren’t there.”

George Laraque played on a line with Kovalev to give it a more physical presence.

“I think it changed our perception,” Canadiens coach Bob Gainey said. “We’re not a big team, but it got us a bigger player into the action more often and created a need for our opponent to realize that there were going to be bigger, stronger players they’d have to deal with around the front of the net.”

Andrei Markov, Montreal’s top defenseman, is skating but there is “no indication he is ready to play” after sustaining a lower body injury late in the regular season, Gainey said.

Injured Boston defenseman Andrew Ference didn’t skate and is listed as day-to-day.

Coach Claude Julien would like the Bruins to play more consistently.

“You saw our second period. We kind of had that bit of a letdown,” he said. “I still think we can play better, which is encouraging news for our hockey club.”

Montreal’s Christopher Higgins said the Canadiens must continue to use their speed to try and wear the Bruins down. Boston can counter that with hard hitting – before the buzzer.

“They’re probably just a little frustrated at the way the game went,” Boston’s Michael Ryder said of the Canadiens shoving – and possible gouging – that occurred once the game ended. “Overall, we can’t look too much into it, just look at what we need to do in the next game. We came out with the win, and that’s all we wanted.”

AP-ES-04-17-09 2027EDT

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