TAMPA — That Steve Downie skated himself off the St. Pete Times Forum ice in the first period Friday night was good news for the Lightning.
Better was the right wing playing the entire third.
"He went to the hospital and comes back and plays," coach Rick Tocchet said. "I wish I had 10 more Steve Downies."
Forget the ugly 5-0 loss to the Rangers that featured a four-goal New York first period and put Tampa Bay (31-35-12) a hair away from official elimination from the playoff race.
That Downie, fourth on the team with 22 goals, survived relatively unscathed a dangerous moment in which he skated hard into the butt end of New York defenseman Dan Girardi's stick, planted against the boards, prompted even Rangers to bang their sticks on the ice in support.
"It was scary," said Downie, who was down for about five minutes. "I couldn't breathe for a while. I was dizzy. I got light-headed. … You get the wind knocked out of you, you think it's going to come back. It took a while to come back, and I started getting worried."
Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said he also had concerns because the butt end hit Downie just below the sternum.
"Internal injuries just below the rib cage, there could be ruptures and bleeding," he said.
So Downie was taken to Tampa General Hospital for an ultrasound that Mulligan said showed no internal damage, and the injury was classified as an abdominal bruise.
The play occurred 5:36 into the first period as Downie and Girardi raced into the New York zone. Girardi's stick blade jammed in the boards, and Downie went into the other end, hitting so hard his body formed a letter C and the stick shattered.
Downie crumbled and was attended by Mulligan, team physician Stan Watkins and two emergency medical technicians from Tampa Fire Rescue, who immediately rolled out a stretcher.
Downie finally sat up and skated slowly off the ice.
"He was in a lot of pain," said center Zenon Konopka, who had stood watch. "To see a teammate and friend in that kind of situation is scary. It puts things in perspective really quick."
Said defenseman Mike Lundin: "The thought of it driving into your ribs with that kind of speed and force, it's a dangerous thing."
Still, Mulligan said, Downie did not want to come off the ice, and he lobbied to play as soon as he returned from the hospital.
"That doesn't surprise me about Downs," Mulligan said. "It was a significant trauma. More than that, it was a scary event."
But as Downie noted, chuckling, "At least it stopped me from hitting the boards."
First Period—1, NYR, Prust 3 (Anisimov), 3:09. 2, NYR, Staal 7 (Gaborik), 3:34. 3, NYR, Prospal 19, 11:21. 4, NYR, Dubinsky 19 (Girardi, Eriksson), 14:55 (pp). Penalties—Meszaros, TB (slashing), 13:34.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Shelley, NYR (holding), 4:13; Dubinsky, NYR (delay of game), 4:53; Tanguay, TB (tripping), 16:06.
Third Period—5, NYR, Voros 2 (Del Zotto), 13:50. Penalties—Gaborik, NYR (holding), :17; Mihalik, TB (roughing), 5:12; Prust, NYR (tripping), 8:58; Fedoruk, TB, misconduct, 14:37.
Shots on Goal—NYR 7-7-8—22. Tampa Bay 6-8-16—30. Power-play opportunities—NYR 1 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 4. Goalies—NYR, Lundqvist 32-26-9 (30 shots-30 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 11-17-7 (7-3), Niittymaki (0:00 second, 15-14). A—17,909 (19,758).