Hit leaves Savard with concussion
Bruin is felled in loss to Penguins
PITTSBURGH - Instead of traveling with his teammates to Toronto last night after a 2-1 loss to the Penguins at Mellon Arena, Marc Savard stayed behind at the team hotel in Pittsburgh, left in no shape to fly because of a blind-side jolt to the head delivered by Matt Cooke.
Savard, wheeled off the ice on a stretcher at 14:23 of the third period, was diagnosed with a concussion. According to coach Claude Julien, Savard blacked out momentarily. Savard was not admitted to a hospital.
“A guy like that has to be suspended,’’ Julien said of Cooke. “That’s the way I see it, because it’s an elbow to the head from the blind side. That’s exactly the examples they show of what we’ve got to get out of this game. We have a guy who’s got a concussion. Our best player. He’s going to be out for a while. He was [unconscious] on the ice for a bit. That’s unacceptable.’’
Savard, standing just inside the offensive blue line, had taken a pass from Milan Lucic. Savard then winged a shot on goal. Just as he released the puck, Cooke launched himself into the center. Cooke caught the right side of Savard’s head with his left elbow. The force of the hit jerked Savard’s head to the left, sending him in the air and tumbling to the ice.
After landing on his back, Savard moved his right leg, then was motionless.
Trainer Don DelNegro rushed to Savard’s side. According to video review, Savard didn’t appear to respond at first to DelNegro’s queries.
After several minutes, arena staff lifted Savard onto a stretcher. As he was wheeled off the ice, he gave a quick wave to the crowd. Julien didn’t think Savard suffered any damage to his neck or jaw. Savard will return to Boston instead of joining his teammates.
The concussion was Savard’s third significant injury this season. He has been sidelined by a broken foot and a partial MCL tear.
“You don’t want to see anyone get hurt,’’ Cooke told Pittsburgh reporters. “I said sorry to him the best I could.’’
Neither referee, Marc Joannette nor Tim Peel, called a penalty.
“You’ve got four guys out there, so you think someone had seen it,’’ Julien said. “But even myself, I was looking elsewhere from where it happened. So you’ve got to look at it objectively and say, ‘Well, nobody’s seen it.’ But when you look back at the replays, which we have an opportunity to do, it’s pretty obvious that it was definitely a dirty hit.’’
Cooke has been suspended for two games twice this season. He has a reputation for delivering suspect hits.
“I did not see the hit,’’ said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. “My recollection of the play, we turned over the puck, Cookie and [Jordan] Staal were backchecking, they made a play into the slot, and Savard was there to shoot it. There was also another player there and our guys were converging on him. I didn’t see how he got knocked down. Obviously you don’t like to see a guy on the ground like that. But I don’t know how he got there.’’
The play resembled the Oct. 24, 2009, hit that Philadelphia’s Mike Richards delivered to Florida’s David Booth. The Panthers winger had skated over the offensive blue line and wasn’t looking when Richards dropped him with a shoulder. Booth suffered a concussion and missed 45 games. Richards was not suspended, but sentiment around the league was that it was a vicious hit to the head.
“I just finished my check,’’ Cooke said. “It felt like shoulder-on-shoulder to me.’’
The Bruins, down by one goal when the incident took place, acknowledged the challenge of resuming play and trying to even the score.
“Get the next goal for Savvy,’’ Shawn Thornton said of the team’s sentiment. “When you see your teammate laying there like that, your energy can go one of two ways. I think the guys did a good job of focusing and trying to get the goal to tie up the game.
“We had some legitimate chances. I thought it was impressive, the focus of the guys on the bench, because it’s not easy in that situation.’’
Cooke skated one shift after the hit. The Bruins did not retaliate, attempting to tie the game instead. Julien pulled Tim Thomas for an extra skater, but the Bruins couldn’t challenge Marc-Andre Fleury (21 saves).
The Bruins host Cooke and the Penguins at TD Garden March 18.
“Any time you see something like that, it’s frustrating,’’ Julien said. “You’re thinking revenge. First and foremost, you want to get back at this guy. But at the same time, you’ve got to win a hockey game here. So yeah, I had to keep my team under control and make them realize we had to win a hockey game.’’
Blake Wheeler had given the Bruins a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 3:12 of the first period. Pascal Dupuis tied the score at 8:57 of the second. Evgeni Malkin netted the winning goal at 1:27 of the third when he fired an off-wing snap shot that beat Thomas (31 saves).
When asked if there was worry about his teammate (before the players were informed of his condition), Thomas said, “Tons.
“Any time you see something like that, whether it’s on our team or the other team, you just say a little prayer that the guy’s going to be OK.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.