MONTREAL -- Alexei Kovalev, his right hand wrapped in ice, had just left the room after giving reporters his version of events on one of the stranger overtime losses in the long and glorious history of the Canadiens.
Sheldon Souray, wearing a neat striped shirt and tie and a cut over his lip, stood with the beads of sweat standing out on his forehead and tried to explain the inexplicable: how at nine minutes and 27 seconds into the second overtime at the Bell Centre, Kovalev had let the puck go after being slashed by Travis Green, reached to grab his numb right hand, and collided with Souray, giving Glen Murray a clean breakaway chance that he buried to give the Bruins a 4-3 win and a 3-1 stranglehold on this series.
And Souray was cutting Kovalev no slack.
"I saw he got slashed," Souray said. "Maybe it should be a penalty, but do you stop playing? In double overtime? They had already called a penalty against [Murray], they're going to let you play at that point.
"I was just caught by surprise that he left the puck there and there was nobody behind him. So obviously you want to go back and get the puck."
Souray went for the puck. Kovalev lurched toward Souray. Murray pounced. Game -- and perhaps set and match as well.
"It's frustrating that it happened now, in a game that was so important to us," said Souray. "We needed the win tonight and I thought we played well enough to win. It just hurts that something like that puts us down. But we're not going to sit here with our heads down."
Even when given a second chance to absolve his teammate, Souray couldn't bring himself to let Kovalev off the hook. Would it not be a normal reaction, he was asked, for Kovalev to let go of his stick and give up the puck if his hand went numb after a slash? Souray thought it over, then said, "It was just really unfortunate that play happened."
Coach Claude Julien's take wasn't much different.
"I think it's important to keep playing," Julien said. "If it's not called a penalty then you can't stop playing."
It was an unfortunate way for a classic Bruins-Canadiens battle to end . . . after 89:27 of hockey, after 89 shots, after thrills and chills and brilliant saves and enough skating to wrap a couple of ribbons around Planet Earth, for a missed penalty, a player to quit on a play at the wrong time, and a collision between teammates to determine the winner.
But perhaps some of the mystique has left the Canadiens. In the old days, the ghosts would have intervened on the other side, and Harry Sinden would have been left to blame the referees, the ghosts, the commissioner's office, or some foul and dastardly plot launched by a higher power for the fact Boston always got the short end of the stick.
No more. Last night it was the Canadiens blaming the referees -- or each other. The pity is that Kovalev, easily the best player on the ice last night, ended up the goat after playing 33:09, recording five shots on goal, and scoring the Canadiens' second goal.
Not surprisingly, Kovalev was not happy with the officiating when it was over.
"If I would have done that," Kovalev said of Green's slash, "it would have been a penalty."