The San Jose Sharks extending their unbeaten streak to open the season 6-0 was a secondary story Tuesday night.
The final score of 6-2 against a St. Louis Blues team that was thought to have a stingy home defense that could challenge San Jose’s early season scoring, a mere afterthought.
The only thought on the minds of any fan of team teal, and the majority of the NHL-watching public for that matter, was the condition of San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle. Boyle took a hit from behind, administered by repeat offender Max Lapierre, that drove his face into the glass and the lip of the boards, knocking the veteran Sharks’ star unconscious on the ice. Boyle needed to be taken off the ice on a stretcher, and according to many of his teammates, he was unresponsive while he remained on the ice. He was taken to a St. Louis hospital. Reports were that he was conscious and responsive, and had feeling in all his extremities as he was taken to the hospital.
“He wasn’t [saying anything] and that’s what was so scary,” captain Joe Thornton said. “I’ve never seen a guy be like that before. It just takes your breath away. He wasn’t responding or anything. It was very, very scary.”
“He was shaking, his eyes were up at the roof,” Logan Couture told the San Jose Mercury News. “We tried talking to him and he wasn’t responding. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Couture continued: ”After the first shift, he’s yelling at us from their bench that he’s coming after us, and then he does that. I don’t even know. It’s pretty gutless.”
“Things like that happen,” Joe Pavelski added, “especially when idiots are idiots.”
The comments from teammates didn’t end there, many players cited Lapierre’s history, which includes a hit on Scott Nichol in 2010 that earned Lapierre a four-game penalty at the time.
Taking up for their fallen teammate, Andrew Desjardins went after Lapierre and Matt Pelech fought St. Louis forward Ryan Reaves. In the end, Lapierre was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Desjardins was given a two-minute instigating penalty and Reeves and Pelech were both ejected.
Following the penalties, San Jose got power-play goals from Couture and Pavelski to jump out to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period.
“Guys responded appropriately. It was great to see the power play wake up and respond to that,” Pavelski said. “We needed to. We needed to turn it up a little bit.”
The score was pushed to 4-0 in favor of the Sharks by the time the second period came to a close. Tommy Wingels and Scott Hannan each netted a goal in the period, and Thornton and Patrick Marleau rounded out San Jose’s scoring with third period goals to give San Jose six goals on the night. Jason Demers, Desjardins, James Sheppard, Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns each had an assist. Thornton recorded three assists along with his goal for four points on the night, Marleau added two assists to give him three points including his goal, and Couture also added an assist to go with his goal for two points.
Antti Niemi blocked 25 of the 27 shots that headed his way to earn his sixth win of the season in net.
Following the game, head coach Todd McLellan announced that Boyle would remain in a hospital overnight, though his knowledge was that his 37-year old assistant-captain was doing better.
“He went to the hospital, and from what I understand he’s doing OK,” McLellan said.
Given his history as a repeat offender and the premeditated nature of the hit, it seems certain that Lapierre will be hearing from the NHL’s league office and receiving a suspension, perhaps reaching into the double-digits.
“A player that probably shouldn’t even be in the league is taking out one of the best players in the world,” Couture said.
In the end, it was McLellan that probably said it best, “It doesn’t have to happen in our game. It doesn’t have to happen.”
Hopefully the NHL delivers a suspension that sends exactly that message.
The Sharks traveled to Dallas following the game to play the Stars on Thursday evening. The plan for Boyle, who stayed in St. Louis over night, is to be released from the hospital this morning and return to San Jose where he will rejoin the team when they play Calgary at home on Saturday. There was still a remote possibility that he could join the team in Dallas on Thursday.
All quotes courtesy of the San Jose Sharks Media Relations or cited from their original source.