Paul Byron scored a third period goal while shorthanded to power the Montreal Canadiens to a 2-1 playoff victory on Thursday over the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost all-star forward John Tavares with head and neck injury.
The Maple Leaf captain was hit in the head by the knee of Montreal forward Corey Perry after being checked by Perry’s teammate Ben Chiarot halfway through the first period of game one of their first round NHL playoff series.
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Tavares was placed on a stretcher and Perry came over to apologized as he was being wheeled off the ice by the paramedics.
But Perry was still made to answer for his foul as he was almost immediately challenged to a fight by Toronto’s Nick Foligno. Perry said Foligno talked to him before their battle in which Foligno easily won, landing several hard punches.
“Nick came up and said ‘Let’s settle this right now, no use waiting,'” Perry said.
Perry said he was travelling too fast to avoid Tavares.
Tavares raised a thumbs-up gesture as he was wheeled off the ice. The Leafs released a statement later saying that Tavares was conscious and communicating with the doctors.
Perry said after the game he is going to reach out to Tavares again and apologize.
“I tried to jump over him and unfortunately I caught my knee on his head,” said Perry. “I just hope he is OK.”
Tavares was playing in his 37th career playoff game and his 13th since signing a free-agent contract with Toronto prior to the 2018-19 season. Tavares scored 50 points in 56 games during the regular season.
This is the first playoff meeting between the two original six teams since 1979. Game two of the best-of-seven matchup is Saturday back at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Byron outraced Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin to a loose puck on the go ahead goal. He fell down while skating to the net but managed to regain his balance and from a kneeing position lifted the puck past Canadien goalie Jack Campbell.
Josh Anderson also scored for Montreal and William Nylander scored the lone goal for the Maple Leafs.