Canadiens' Brandon Prust apologizes for publicly ripping ref Brad Watson
Canadiens forward Brandon Prust issued a public apology to referee Brad Watson, whom Prust was extremely critical of in heated comments after Game 2.
Two days after taking referee Brad Watson to task following the Montreal Canadiens' Game 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brandon Prust has publicly apologized. The Montreal forward addressed the media after the team's practice Tuesday in Tampa.
Prust racked up 31 penalty minutes in Game 2, which included a late-game fight with Braydon Coburn and him whipping his elbow pad at Tampa Bay's bench. After the game, Prust openly expressed his frustration with Watson.
The Canadiens tough guy said he thought Watson's first penalty called on Prust was "soft" and said that Watson kept provoking him before handing Prust an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The real kicker was Prust's aggressive analysis of how Watson officiates games.
"That's the ref he is," Prust said. "He tried to play God. He tries to control the game and he did that tonight."
Prust has not yet been disciplined by the NHL, but reports suggest he will not be suspended. A fine is still possible.
Tuesday, with a much cooler head, Prust delivered his apology in front of a lot of TV cameras and microphones.
"First off I'd like to apologize to Brad Watson and the rest of the officials in the NHL," Prust said. "If I caused any embarrassment or headaches, it was uncalled for. We got in a heated exchange that should've stayed between us.
"I've always played by the code on and off the ice. I'm a pretty honest player. Sometimes I cross the line. It was tough, it was emotional. I just got into a fight, I just threw my elbow pad at their bench, we just lost 6-2 and five minutes later we had to go interviews. I wasn't myself. I was agitated. I'm an emotional player. I always have been. Usually I use it to my advantage, but on Sunday I didn't."
Prust also noted that he was hoping this wouldn't result in further backlash from NHL officials. It is highly unlikely Watson will work another Montreal Canadiens game this postseason, whether Prust's allegations in his comments Sunday about being provoked are true or not.
Former NHL official Kerry Fraser noted that referees may not be treating Prust with any sort of kindness moving forward.
"You can't win," Fraser told the National Post. "What's the end game to all of this? The end game is he questioned the integrity of an official and there's not a win in that.
"Brandon Prust has engaged himself in something that's going to take him into an area where he doesn't want to be part of, because officials are human and they're part of a team, too. If you look at the team concept from a hockey player's perspective, they stand up for their teammates. The same goes for officials."
Prust certainly will have to be careful, though the apology probably helps some. However, after racking up 31 PIM in one game, he might just want to take it easy in general. That's not to say he shouldn't play the way he does, because that's why he's in the lineup. He just can't expect to be given the benefit of the doubt on close plays.
With the Habs trailing their second-round series 2-0, the margin for error going forward only gets slimmer.
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