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Habs' Xhekaj calls out Panthers' Gudas: 'I don't know what's up with that guy'

Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Montreal Canadiens rookie Arber Xhekaj wasn't impressed by the antics of Florida Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas during Thursday night's testy contest.

"He never does," Xhekaj said when asked if Gudas answered for his actions during the Habs' 6-2 defeat, according to Sportsnet's Eric Engels. "I don't know what's up with that guy. He'll be taking runs at guys' knees all game. He does play hard, I'll give it to him. But at some point, you've gotta show that you're going to be able to do that."

Gudas drew Xhekaj's postgame ire after he nearly caught Kirby Dach with a knee-on-knee hit late in the third period. Dach laid out Gudas in the Panthers' zone moments prior.

No penalties were called during the sequence. Here's a look at the incident:

There were three fights in the third period of the contest, none of which involved Gudas. Xhekaj himself dropped the gloves with Panthers forward Givani Smith.

Gudas has a lengthy suspension history. Most recently, he was banned for two games in 2019 for high-sticking Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov. Gudas also once sat for 10 contests after slashing former Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault in 2017.

Xhekaj expressed frustrations with the officiating during Thursday's matchup, which saw the Atlantic Division rivals combine for 90 penalty minutes. Canadiens forward Josh Anderson received a questionable two-minute penalty for cross-checking Gudas in the second period, while Grigori Denisenko stayed out of the box after hitting Xhekaj from behind.

"You don't like that. Obviously, if they call (Anderson's) penalty on Gudas, it's a weak call," Xhekaj said. "And then my neck into the boards like that. I get it, I'm a big guy, but you've gotta call the game. That's how it gets out of control."

Veteran forward Eric Staal left the contest after taking an unpenalized hit from Canadiens rearguard Michael Matheson in the opening frame. Panthers All-Star Matthew Tkachuk went on to fight Matheson in the third period.

The Panthers capitalized on four of their eight power-play opportunities, while the Canadiens failed to score on five chances. Florida did most of its damage in an eventful second period, finding the back of the net five times.

The two teams will square off again March 16.

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