Audio: Neilson saves otherwise listless game

Canadiens hopeful Eric Neilson protests his third-period ejection, claiming to the referee unseen that a guy has to actually have his gloves off to fight.
John Mahoney, Gazette

Yes, there are purists who say that fighting has no place in hockey, that it only tarnishes the beauty of the game.

But without Eric Neilson last night, the ushers would still be finding sleeping bodies at the Bell Centre.

Hickey’s game story
Postgame in the dressing room

This game, richly populated by farmhands, will never be confused with classic hockey, the Canadiens beating the Ottawa Senators 2-1 on goals by Brian Gionta and Ben Maxwell. But it was Neilson, a career-minor leaguer who this summer signed an AHL contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs, who fans are talking about this morning.

The 25-year-old fought 2 1/2 times – thumping Jeremy Yablonski, drawing with Chris Neil and finally being bulldogged to the ice by Cody Bass, never getting his gloves off the final time.

Postgame, Neilson thanked every reporter who stopped to talk. Fans in Hamilton are going to LOVE this guy, and here’s hoping the gritty, likable role player will be back in Montreal early and often this season.

Here’s a chat with Neilson after a game he’ll not soon forget.

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