- Chris Forsberg, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Bruins forward Nathan Horton was hospitalized on Monday night after being stretchered off the ice, strapped to a backboard with his neck immobilized, following a scary hit from Vancouver's Aaron Rome with 14 minutes, 53 seconds to play in the first period of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday at the TD Garden.
Horton, skating near the middle of the ice, fed Milan Lucic on the left side, but, with Horton's head still turned that way, Rome launched into him an instant later at the blue line and Horton's head hit hard on the ice as the two spilled to the ground.
Paramedics attended to Horton for several minutes before taking him off the ice by stretcher. Lucic said Horton was able to talk to him from the ice, an encouraging sign despite a scary on-ice scene. Horton has a concussion, according to a team source.
Fans, who gasped at the initial hit and again when it was replayed on the scoreboard, cheered for Horton as he left the ice. The team later announced that he was sent to Massachusetts General Hospital and able to move his arms and legs; a similar message on the scoreboard was greeted with a standing ovation.
"The first time I saw was up on the scoreboard," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Then I went in the dressing room between periods and I went in the clinic and asked a little bit more; it was basically the same thing. They didn't know more than what was written there: that he was obviously moving around a little bit."
With Boston's backs against the wall in a must-win Game 3, the Bruins admitted they got another spark when Horton went down and that aided them in scoring eight goals over the final two periods for an 8-1 triumph that cut Vancouver's series lead to 2-1.
"We talked about obviously playing for Horty," said Bruins forward Mark Recchi. "He's been a great teammate all year for us, been a great guy. It's tough to see your teammate laying down there on the ice. We knew it was a late hit. But we're more concerned about his health at this time. The league can take care of the rest."
Rome was assessed a 5-minute major (interference) and a game misconduct. According to ESPN Stats and Info, this was the fourth time he has received a misconduct in his career, including playoffs, and the second time this postseason.
NHL spokesman Frank Brown said the league would hold a hearing at 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday with Rome. Not surprisingly, opinions were split between locker rooms.
"I think what I would call it is it was a blindside hit that we've talked about taking out of the game," said Julien. "(Horton) made the pass. (The hit) was late. (Rome) came from the blind side. Whether it's through the motion of the hit, it appeared he left his feet a little bit.
"You know, again, that's my view on it. I'm not going to comment more than that. 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."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault thought the incident was unfortunate, but said he didn't think it was a dirty hit.
"Obviously, you never want to see any player leave in that situation," Vigneault said. "I think our whole team and myself and the whole organization hopes that he's all right. ... I don't think that's the hit that the league is trying to take out of the game. This is a physical game, you have big guys. Fraction of a second to decide what's happening out there. It's very unfortunate. You never want to see that. But this is a physical game."
Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin echoed his coach's thoughts.
"It's not fun," said Sedin. "I hope he's OK. It's never fun to see a guy go down like that. I saw it on the big screen. I haven't really seen the replay, but from what I saw I thought it was a late hit, but I don't think it was a blindside... You don't like to see a guy laid out like that. But Romer is an honest player. It wasn't blindside, just a little late."
The NHL is in its first full season with Rule 48, a ban of blindside hits to the head of unsuspecting opponents.
Said Bruins winger Shawn Thornton: "I think those type of hits, we have to get out of the game. That's the culture that's been in there the last couple of years. That's the rule -- lateral contact, hits to the head. I don't think there's any place for that, but it's in the league's hands. They will do what they deem (appropriate)."
Brad Marchand, who scored a short-handed goal in the second period, admitted Boston got some added inspiration between periods talking about Horton in the locker room during the break. Recchi said the Bruins wanted to win for their fallen teammate.
"(Between periods there) wasn't really a lot of talk," said Recchi. "Obviously, we all knew it was late. There wasn't a lot of talk. It was more of, 'Let's make sure we do this for Horty. Horty has been a great teammate for us all year. Let's get this win for him tonight.'
"He's been tremendous for us. He's such a great guy. It's tough to
see him down. That was more the talk. We can't control what happens. We know it was late, but we're not in control of what the league does. That's their job. We'll handle it the same way we handled it after Game 1 (when the league did not punish Burrows). They'll do their thing. Whatever they do, we'll just focus on what we have to do for Game 4."
A Bruins old-school "MVP" jacket was hanging in Horton's stall after the game.
The third overall pick in the 2003 draft, Horton played six years for the Florida Panthers -- and never made the postseason -- before he was traded to Boston last summer. He had 26 goals and 27 assists for the Bruins in the regular season and eight goals and nine assists in 20 playoff games -- including two Game 7 winners.
"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."
Chris Forsberg covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Bruins forward Nathan Horton remained hospitalized on Monday night after leaving Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals on a stretcher.