TORONTO — Former Lightning D Paul Ranger had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher late in the first period following a hit from Tampa Bay LW Alex Killorn.
As Ranger went back to retrieve the puck late in the first period, he made a fake to his right before turning back to his left, which put him right into the path of a forechecking Killorn, who hit Ranger in the back sending the Toronto D head first into the boards with 4.1 seconds remaining in the first period.
Ranger laid face down on the ice for several minutes, kicking his right leg on several occasions. With medical personnel attending to him, including Tampa Bay head athletic trainer Tom Mulligan, Ranger was taken off the ice on a stretcher with his neck and legs immobilized.
Nearly all the Toronto players along with four Lightning players remained out on the ice after the officials ended the period early and sent the teams back to their respective locker rooms. The Tampa Bay players – D Mike Kostka, RW Teddy Purcell, LW Ryan Malone and C Nate Thompson – waited until Ranger was being wheeled off the ice as they tapped their sticks as he went by.
Killorn was assessed a five-minute major for boarding and was ejected from the game.
“It’s one of those textbook hitting from behind, that’s what it looked like,’’ Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle said. “But I didn’t really get a look if he turned into him or if the puck bobbled in his feet or any of that.’’
While there was genuine concern for Ranger, Killorn said he had no intent to send Ranger into the boards like he did.
“As I’m going in to hit him, (Ranger) makes a quick turn play and I’m already committed at that point,’’ Killorn said. “I’m trying to think of what else I could have done, in my head you look back to prevent that, but it’s just a tough, quick-bang play.’’
Killorn received Ranger’s cell phone number and left him a voice mail message to apologize for the play.
“I’m happy that he is OK, I heard through the (Toronto public relations staff) and stuff that he is doing all right now,’’ Killorn said. “It’s kind of a scary moment, one of those plays where I commit to hit someone without knowing if they are going to turn, so it’s just an unfortunate play.’’
The Maple Leafs sent out a statement that said: “Paul Ranger was taken to local hospital for precautionary assessment this evening during tonight’s game. He is stable, conscious and alert.’’Killorn also said he has not heard from anybody at the league as to whether he is subject to any sort of disciplinary hearing.
Filppula took a little longer than predicted to return from a non-displaced fracture in his ankle suffered on Feb. 6, missing the first two games coming out of the Olympic break. But in recent games, Filppula has looked stronger on the ice, showing more control and maneuvering in tight quarters.
“I feel OK,’’ Filppula said of the ankle. “I definitely feel better and better all the time, so that’s good.’’
Filppula extended his scoring streak to six games on Wednesday after adding a pair of assists.
G Andrey Vasilevskiy, the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft, helped Salavat advance to the second round of the Kontinental Hockey League playoffs after a Game 7 victory against Torpedo on Tuesday.
Vasilevskiy started all seven games for Salavat, which overcame a 0-2 series deficit. Vasilevskiy stopped 34 of 35 shots in a 2-1 victory in Game 7. He finished the series with a 1.91 goals-against average and .934 save percentage, which included a triple overtime victory to avoid going down 0-3 in the series.
Salavat will open the Eastern Conference semifinals against second seeded Barys on Friday.
Nuts and Bolts
Lightning draftee G Adam Wilcox was named a finalist for the inaugural Mike Richter award as the top NCAA goaltender. Wilcox, a sophomore at Minnesota, has a 23-4-6 record with a 1.91 goals against average and .934 save percentage for the top ranked Gophers. The winner will be announced at the Frozen Four next month in Philadelphia. ... Northeastern junior G Clay Witt, a Brandon native, is also a finalist for the Richter award ... Tampa Bay scratched D Keith Aulie, D Mark Barberio, RW Nikita Kucherov and RW Richard Panik.