BOSTON - The Boston Bruins gingerly tapped their sticks on the ice while medical personnel wheeled Nathan Horton out of the hushed arena through the Zamboni tunnel, his neck fixed in a brace.
Horton's teammates needed a few minutes to clear their minds after such a frightening injury in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. But when the Bruins finally got their heads together, they created an offensive avalanche that got them back in the series.
Andrew Ference and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist during Boston's four-goal second period, Tim Thomas made 40 saves, and the Bruins beat the Canucks, 8-1, last night, trimming Vancouver's series lead to 2-1.
"It's always tough when a guy goes down," said forward Brad Marchand, who scored a shorthanded goal in the second period. "We really wanted to get this win tonight for him. It's a very tough situation, and everyone is worried about him, but it definitely gave us motivation to win."
Game 4 is tomorrow in Boston.
Boston emerged from a three-game offensive slump after Horton was taken off the ice on a stretcher 5 minutes into the game, rendered senseless by a late hit to the head from Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome.
Mark Recchi scored two goals for the Bruins, who turned a big win into a blowout with four more goals in the final 8 1/2 minutes of the third period against beleaguered goalie Roberto Luongo, who won the first two games of the series in Vancouver.
Boston had managed just three goals in its previous 10 periods before torching Luongo, who stopped 30 shots. Boston hadn't even scored six goals in a finals game since May 5, 1970, in Game 2 against St. Louis on the way to their last championship.
Daniel Paille scored a shorthanded goal in the third, and Recchi, Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder - who finished with three points - scored in the final 2 1/2 minutes as the Bruins emphatically avoided a daunting 0-3 series deficit.
Jannik Hansen broke up Thomas' shutout bid with 6:07 to play for the Canucks, who finally hit a major bump in their late-season roll toward their first Stanley Cup title.
"In the playoffs, a loss is a loss, if you lose in OT or you lose like we did tonight," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.
The palpable excitement of Boston's first home finals game in 21 years turned into unease just 5 minutes into Game 3.
After Horton passed the puck to Milan Lucic at the Vancouver blue line, Rome left his feet to deliver a hard shoulder check to Horton's upper chest and head. Horton appeared to be unconscious after he landed flat on his back, his arm spookily reaching up into empty space.
"I think what I recall is it was a blindside hit that we've talked about taking out of the game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "That's my view on it. Let the league take care of it. We're trying to clean that part of the game out."