TORONTO, ONT – Toronto captain John Tavares was removed from the ice on a stretcher and taken to a hospital after a collision early in Game 1 of the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Tavares crashed into Montreal’s Ben Chiarot 10:29 into the first period and was hit in the head by Corey Perry’s knee as he fell.
“He’s conscious and communicating well,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The tests he’s had so far have come back clear. He’s going to remain in hospital overnight to undergo further tests. It’s a big loss for us, but we’ve got lots of depth. Good teams overcome these types of things. That’s going to be on us.”
Tavares gave a thumbs-up as he left the ice.
“I’ve experienced a lot of different things, a lot of tough injuries like that in my time,” Keefe said. “In an empty building like that, it’s probably the most uncomfortable situation I’ve been a part of on the ice. It was really tough to get through. Our players were rattled and concerned. I was obviously very concerned.”
Players from both teams tapped their sticks and “Courage” by The Tragically Hip played over the sound system at Scotiabank Arena as Tavares left the ice.
“It’s tough to see. We love each guy on this team,” Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell said. “Any time one of your brothers goes down it’s pretty gut-wrenching.”
Toronto newcomer Nick Foligno fought Perry immediately after the faceoff to resume play.
“Our captain’s laying on the ice,” Foligno said. “It’s nothing more than that. Perry obliged. It just addresses the situation and everyone moves on.”
Perry has played with Tavares internationally for Canada.
“Felt sick to my stomach,” Perry said. “Scary situation when that happens. Never want to see that. It’s unfortunate. I’ll reach out and make sure he’s all right.”
Tavares had 50 points on 19 goals and 31 assists during the shortened, 56-game season. He was playing his 907th NHL game, the first 693 of which were with the New York Islanders.
Tavares left the Islanders to sign with his boyhood team in 2018, hoping to bring the Stanley Cup to Toronto for the first time since 1967. The Maple Leafs finished first in the all-Canadian North Division to earn the first seed in the playoffs.
The Maple Leafs and Canadiens are facing off in a playoff series for the first time since 1979.
“We’d like to express our concern for John Tavares and are sending him our best wishes for a speedy recovery,” the Canadiens posted on Twitter.
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