Montreal Canadiens forward Corey Perry said he did not intend to injure Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares when his knee caught the center's head in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
The incident occurred in the first period of the Habs' 2-1 victory and left Tavares crumpled on the ice before paramedics were able to get him on to a stretcher and transport him to a local hospital for further evaluation.
"I honestly felt sick to my stomach when I saw it," Perry told reporters after the win. "When I saw him, with the way he is, it's a scary situation. I'll reach out to him and talk to him, and hopefully he's OK."
Tavares took a clean hit from Ben Chiarot and was falling to the ice when Perry's knee caught him flush in the head. The Canadiens veteran said he tried to avoid Tavares as soon as he fell in his path but couldn't react quickly enough.
"I don't know what else I could do," Perry explained. "I tried to jump over him."
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters Tavares was conscious and communicating well following the hit but will remain in hospital overnight despite initial tests coming back "clear."
None of that mattered in the immediate aftermath of the injury, as Toronto's Nick Foligno took it upon himself to drop the gloves with Perry when play resumed.
Despite the accidental nature of Perry's hit, Foligno felt a need to drop the gloves with Perry as retribution.
"Our captain's laying there on the ice," Foligno said. "Nothing more than that. I don't think it's malicious, but our captain's laying there."
Perry understood the sentiment, even if he was clearly shaken from what happened to Tavares.
Greg Wyshynski @wyshynski
When asked by @JohnLuTSNMtl if any Leafs accused him of the hit being intentional, Corey Perry said: <br><br>“I mean, it’s an accident. All [Foligno] said was ‘let’s settle this now. I know it’s an accident,’ he said. But it’s their captain, so it is what it is. That’s all I can say.”
Perry himself made it clear to Tavares that he had no ill intent, skating over to the center as he was being taken off the ice to wish him well.