Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansen said he did not initially realize it was his stick that caught Colorado goalie Darcy Kuemper through the face mask during their game on Saturday. But when he did, and saw Kuemper drop to the ice, “I got real sick to my stomach.”
The incident happened with 56.6 seconds left in the first period of Game 3 on Saturday, when Johansen was battling with Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon in front of the Colorado goal. The blade of Johansen’s stick somehow managed to poke through the cat’s eye portion of Kuemper’s mask.
Kuemper immediately slumped back, then attempted to race off the ice, before falling down again, where the team’s trainer raced out to meet him. The 32-year-old left and did not return to the game, but has since been declared to be OK, albeit with some swelling. He may even play in Game 4 on Monday, according to head coach Jared Bednar.
But in the moment, it left the 29-year-old from Vancouver with an ill feeling.
“Just from looking back and seeing him skating to the bench and dropping again. It’s not a good feeling,” Johansen told reporters on Sunday morning. “Obviously, I hope that everyone knows that there was zero intention of ever something like that happening. Just a freak accident.”
Backup goalie Pavel Francouz replaced Kuemper and the Avalanche went on to win 7-3, for a 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series with Nashville.
“It definitely put a smile on my face hearing that it could just be a little scratch and some swelling,” Johansen said. “I was really happy to hear that.”
Johansen admitted he was shocked that his stick was able to make it through the wire bars of the goalie’s mask: “It’s crazy how it can.”
Asked if he had reached out to Kuemper, Johansen replied he held off when he heard he was OK.
“I was going to this morning and was told … heard that it wasn’t anything serious at all. I was just gonna let it be, knowing he was fine,” he said.
“I think he knows it was an accident.”