MONTREAL—Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty was understandably shaken to see teammate P.K. Subban immobilized, strapped to a stretcher and rushed off the ice with 2:26 remaining in his team’s 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
It was nearly five years to the day that Pacioretty fractured two vertebrae and suffered a Grade-3 concussion as a result of being slammed into a Bell Centre stanchion by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
On Thursday, memories of the traumatic situation rushed back to Pacioretty instantly.
“I couldn’t play,” he said. “It was impossible to concentrate after that. Maybe even moreso than a lot of the other guys. Now I know how guys felt when it happened to me.”
It was after Pacioretty spoke to media members that he was informed by team officials that Subban suffered a neck injury, that he was stable, communicating and capable of moving all of his limbs.
Subban’s trip to the hospital, where he’ll undergo further testing, was labeled a “precautionary” measure.
On Thursday, Pacioretty was just a few feet from Subban when he was going through the process of having his neck stabilized so he could be placed on the stretcher. He noted Subban was communicating.
“What happens in that situation stays in that situation,” said Pacioretty, who didn’t wish to divulge what, if anything, was said between both players.
The game had a festive atmosphere to it up until that point.
Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk continued his torrid streak, recording his third consecutive two-goal game, making it 11 goals over his last eight games. Forward Torrey Mitchell’s goal with 6:19 left in the third period gave the team a chance to move to within six points of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are currently holding down the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.
There was cause for celebration earlier in the day, too.
Subban was awarded the Jean Beliveau Trophy by the Canadiens for his involvement in the community. His $10 million commitment over the next seven years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital and his frequent appearances at the bedsides of sick children earned him the honour.
Subban’s acceptance of the award came just a couple hours before he was rushed to Montreal General Hospital.
“You always want to make sure your player’s going to be healthy and is going to be fine,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. “It’s always scary when you see the doctors go on the ice and you don’t know what’s going on. I think all the bench felt the same thing and when he left on the stretcher.”
Subban played 29:55 before leaving the game. He recorded his team-leading 45th assist, had three shots on net, another four attempts, one hit and three blocked shots.
There was a pall over the Bell Centre when Pacioretty went down Mar. 8, 2011. That same eerie silence blanketed the arena as Subban was being attended to for several minutes on the ice.
“It’s more the sight of seeing that and seeing the building quiet and seeing all the doctors on the ice that really upsets me,” said Pacioretty. “Hope for the best.”
The difference for Pacioretty in 2011 was that he lay face down, motionless for several minutes after Chara hit him. Aside from a breath that visibly clouded his visor, there were no encouraging signs between the time of his injury and the procedure to put him on the stretcher.
It’s an incident Pacioretty has replayed in his mind several times, but it’s one he’d prefer to never revisit again.
That was unavoidable Thursday.