A hit by Bruins forward Nick Ritchie left Lightning forward Yanni Gourde lying on the ice in the second period of Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal Saturday. Gourde eventually skated off under his own power, grimacing, but was back on the bench for the third period in the 3-1 Lightning win.
Ritchie got a five-minute boarding major, and the Lightning got one goal out of it, by defenseman Victor Hedman, for a 3-0 lead.
Ritchie hit Gourde from behind after Gourde had played the puck, and Gourde went flying into the boards at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. Gourde’s shoulders and head appeared to take the brunt of the contact.
Gourde stayed on the ice for a little more than a minute while he was attended to by athletic trainer Tom Mulligan. Then with the help of Mulligan and defenseman Braydon Coburn, Gourde skated off the ice gingerly on his own, pain showing on his face.
Gourde played 5:25 in the third period, totaling 15:53 for the game.
Ritchie said he was just finishing the hit on the play.
“I had no intent to put a guy on the ice and injure anybody and (was) just finishing my hit,” Ritchie said. “But I thought I did a good job keeping my hands down, shoulder to shoulder, and maybe he wasn’t expecting it, and he had just gotten to the puck, so I’m just playing my game, and that’s part of it.”
Boston coach Bruce Cassidy defended Ritchie’s play and called Gourde’s reaction “clever” because it drew a five-minute penalty for the Bruins. He also pointed out that no penalty was originally called on the play. One was assessed after officials reviewed the play while Gourde was laying on the ice.
“I don’t know why that changed,” Cassidy said. “Clearly, Gourde was down on the play, and he’s a good player, a real good player, clever, obviously. But he got them on the power play for five minutes and finished the game and had no problems in the third period. So I didn’t agree with the call.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper responded to Cassidy’s “clever” remark saying Gourde is “a clever player, so there’s no doubt about that.”
“But that was a league-reviewed hit, so they didn’t just make up the five minutes,” Cooper said. “There’s a lot of people involved that goes into that.”
Cooper said he thought the league would review the play for supplemental discipline for Ritchie but given that Ritchie served a five-minute major and Gourde was able to come back to play in the third period, he didn’t think Ritchie would be suspended.
“It’s playoff hockey. It’s tough,” Cooper said. “We didn’t hold (Gourde) back. Gordo’s a tough kid. We were trying to err on the side of caution, saying, ‘Gordo don’t come back,’ and he’s like, ‘Not a chance. I want back in this game.’
“So, yes, he is a clever player, but he’s also a gutsy player for coming back.”
Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow have been the Lightning’s top-performing line in the playoffs. They have been a disruptive presence while adding offensive production.
Ironman in goal
Andrei Vasilevskiy is the only goaltender left in the postseason who has played every one of his team’s games. Other teams have had with injuries or are using goalie tandems. In the case of the Bruins, No. 1 Tuukka Rask opted out to be with his family after the first two games of their first-round series against the Hurricanes.
The Lightning have stuck with their Vezina Trophy finalist, who was not highly tested Saturday, but made 29 saves on 30 shots.
The Bruins have used three goalies. Jaroslav Halak has started since Rask left, and Dan Vladar finished Game 3, a 7-1 Lightning win, after Tampa Bay chased Halak out of the net.