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Check sends Horton to hospital

Julien questions late hit by Rome

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By John Powers
Globe Staff / June 7, 2011

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It was a frightening hit, the kind that immediately goes viral on YouTube, the kind that can end a season if not a career. One moment Bruins right wing Nathan Horton had just delivered the puck to linemate Milan Lucic and was about to cross the blue line. The next, he was lying stunned on his back after taking a heavy shoulder check from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome, flying through the air and whacking his head on the ice.

“We talked about obviously playing for Horty,’’ said Mark Recchi after Horton’s injury barely five minutes in had added a sobering aspect to Boston’s rousing 8-1 victory in the third game of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. “He’s been a great teammate for us, been a great guy. It’s tough to see your teammate laying down there on the ice.’’

After Horton was taken on a stretcher to Massachusetts General Hospital, club officials reported that he was moving all of his extremities and a TV account said that he was speaking and blinking his eyes. “I hope he’s OK,’’ said Vancouver forward Henrik Sedin. “It’s never fun to see a guy go down like that.’’

Horton’s injury came just after he had passed the puck as his linemates were surging into the Vancouver end and he was looking away from Rome, whose blast knocked Horton off his skates. More than half a dozen members of the medical team attended to him, immobilizing Horton’s neck before transferring him to a stretcher. When the replay was shown on the large video screen above center ice after Horton was wheeled off, the crowd reacted with a roar of shock, followed by a cascade of boos.

Rome, who was assessed both a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct, will have a disciplinary hearing with league officials this morning. “I think what I would call it is it was a blindside hit that we’ve talked about taking out of the game,’’ said Boston coach Claude Julien. “He made the pass. It was late . . . Whether it’s through the motion of the hit, it appeared he left his feet a little bit . . . I’m not going to comment more than that. I’ll say what I always say: let the league take care of it. We’re trying to clean that out. Let’s see where they go with that.’’

While Canucks counterpart Alain Vigneault conceded that Rome’s check “obviously seemed to be a little bit late,’’ he felt it was a head-on hit that is within the rules. “I don’t think that’s the hit that the league is trying to take out of the game,’’ Vigneault said. “This is a physical game. You have big guys, a fraction of a second to decide what’s happening out there. It’s very unfortunate. Again, like I said, you never want to see that. But this is a physical game.’’

It was the third sobering injury to a key Boston player this season. Marc Savard was sidelined for the duration after sustaining his second concussion in January after being checked into the boards by Colorado defenseman Matt Hunwick. And Patrice Bergeron, the club’s best all-around forward, missed the first two games of the Tampa Bay series with a mild concussion after colliding with Flyers forward Claude Giroux.

Horton, one of Boston’s top guns during its championship run, has been the team’s No. 2 point-producer in the playoffs behind linemate David Krejci, scoring eight goals and adding nine assists. If he cannot return to action, his absence would be a serious blow to a Bruins team that has counted on him to deliver key goals at crucial times during the postseason.

It was Horton who scored the winner against Montreal in double overtime of the fifth game at the Garden and gave teammates control of a series in which they had dropped the first two contests at home. Then he finished off the Canadiens in the seventh game with an overtime goal on his only shot of the evening. And in the seventh game against the Lightning, it was Horton who scored the game’s only goal with 7:33 to play and propelled the Bruins to the championship round for the first time since 1990. Last night, teammates hung the Player of the Game jacket in his locker.

“We lost a pretty good player,’’ Julien said. “We’ll have to move some players around. Right now, I haven’t really made my roster up for next game. I can’t give you that answer right now. But we’ll find solutions. We always do.’’

John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com.

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