Lightning’s Brayden Point: Morgan Rielly play in Game 3 ‘not dirty’

Tampa Bay’s top-line center says he initiated contact on the play that sent him hard into the boards and resulted in damage to cartilage in his ribs.
Lightning center Brayden Point (21) is attended to after going hard into the boards following a collision with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) during the third period of Game 3 April 22 in Tampa.
Lightning center Brayden Point (21) is attended to after going hard into the boards following a collision with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) during the third period of Game 3 April 22 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 2, 2023|Updated May 2, 2023

TAMPA — Brayden Point suffered damage to cartilage in his ribs after going hard into the boards following his Game 3 collision with Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly.

Despite the response of his coach, teammates and others around Tampa Bay, the Lightning center said he had no problem with the play.

“I thought it was clean,” Point said Tuesday morning. “It was just two guys going for the puck. I don’t think there was any intention on that at all.”

The Lightning held final meetings and exit interviews with players Tuesday at Amalie Arena to wrap up a season that ended Saturday night with a first-round loss to Toronto. It is the first time in four years Tampa Bay will not play in the Stanley Cup Final.

Point, who left Game 3 to go through the NHL’s mandatory concussion protocol but returned later in the same period, said he did not believe Rielly deserved a penalty on the play.

“Not really,” Point said. “I initiated the contact, because you’re tying to feel that guy behind you, that kind of protects you going forward, but I just I went down. It was unfortunate. Not dirty in my mind at all.”

Point, 27, said he lost his footing on the play and went crashing into the boards head and shoulder first. He got up and then crumbled to the ice, visibly in pain. He said he huddled on the ice because he had lost his breath.

It looked serious in real time, which resulted in several scrums on the ice. They included Steven Stamkos pulling Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews into his first-ever fight in the NHL.

Point said initial X-rays showed no damage to his ribs, which allowed him to continue playing. But later examination revealed that the cartilage had been fractured. It will take time to heal, which Point will have more of this summer than in the past three.

“Obviously, a situation you don’t want to be in but now that you’re in and I think to take advantage of it, is the best thing we can do,” Point said. “So just take a break from it for a little bit. Recharge, enjoy family and friends, and then a little bit of our summer to get ready for next season.”

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois on Tuesday detailed several injuries the Lightning suffered during the six-game series but said he did not think any would require offseason surgery.

Defenseman Erik Cernak, who took an elbow to the head from Michael Bunting in Game 1, suffered a concussion. BriseBois said the 25-year old defenseman still is suffering from symptoms.

“He wouldn’t be able to be cleared (now),” BriseBois said, “but he is making progress.”

Forward Tanner Jeannot, 25, had a high ankle sprain. Forward Michael Eyssimont, 26, had concussion-like symptoms early on but was cleared to return.

Defenseman Victor Hedman, 32, suffered a hip impingement that will not require surgery.

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“It takes a toll to play in this league for 14, 15 years. You’re going to have injuries and nagging injuries,” Hedman said. “But I have a full summer, getting ready for next season.”

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