BOSTON After Boston's thrashing of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL Stanley Cup finals on Monday, the talk was not about the 8-1 score but the hit that left Bruins winger Nathan Horton hospitalized.
Horton had fired a pass to Milan Lucic and was crossing into the Vancouver zone when he was flattened with his head bouncing off the ice after a late blindside hit by Canuck defenseman Aaron Rome.
Horton tried to get up but was held down by medical staff who took him off the ice on a stretcher. His condition in hospital was not disclosed but team officials said he was able to move his extremities.
Rome received a game misconduct and is likely to receive at least a one-game suspension when he talks with NHL officials on Tuesday because it came too late after Horton has passed the puck.
Boston coach Claude Julien stopped short of calling it a dirty hit, but made it clear what he thinks league officials should do with Rome, who does not have a reputation of being dirty player.
"I think what I would call it is it was a blindside hit that we've talked about taking out of the game. (Horton) made the pass. It was late. (Rome) came from the blindside," Julien told reporters.
Boston failed to score during the five-minute powerplay that ensued in the first period, but Bruins players said it definitely fueled their motivation as they went on to give Vancouver its worst pounding of the playoffs.
"There wasn't a lot of talk (in the dressing room). It was more of, let's make sure we do this for Horty (Horton). Horty has been a great team mate for us all year. Let's get this win for him tonight," Boston's right winger Mark Recchi said.
The game did get dirty with roughing penalties and a fight in the third period, but that was largely after the score had become lopsided.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault admitted the hit seemed "a little bit late," but then disagreed with Julien that it was the sort of hit the NHL was trying to stamp out because hockey is "a physical game."
Most Vancouver players said they did not see the hit.
Horton has been a key goalscorer for the Bruins in the postseason so his injury could leave a hole in Boston's lineup with the next game scheduled for Wednesday.
"We'll find solutions. We always do," Julien said.
(Writing by Allan Dowd in Vancouver. Edited by Patrick Johnston)