ST. LOUIS -- The good news would come later, that the injuries to San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle may not be as serious as they appeared when he was taken off the ice on a stretcher early in what would become a 6-2 thumping of the St. Louis Blues.
But as they talked about the illegal hit from behind Tuesday night that drove Boyle face-first into the boards and left him unconscious on the ice, his teammates appeared shaken by the experience and angered by the fact it was Blues pest Maxim Lapierre who did the damage.
"He was shaking, his eyes were up at the roof," Logan Couture said of Boyle. "We tried talking to him and he wasn't responding. I've never seen anything like it."
What galled Couture even more was that Lapierre, who was suspended four games for a March 2010 hit on then-Shark Scott Nichol, had been chirping from the St.Louis bench earlier in the game.
"After the first shift, he's yelling at us from their bench that he's coming after us, and then he does that," Couture said. "I don't even know. It's pretty gutless."
Couture wasn't the only Shark making it personal with Lapierre, who received a game misconduct and was ejected from the game for checking Boyle from behind.
"Things like that happen," Joe Pavelski said, "especially when idiots are idiots."
The Blues, however, contend the hit was unintentional.
"The whole situation's tough to watch, everybody felt badly," St. Louis forward Steen told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "(Lapierre) didn't do anything on purpose. Nobody wants to see stuff like that. He's obviously going to feel bad, but it's something that happens, an accident."
Two fights immediately broke out after the hit with Andrew Desjardins tracking down Lapierre and Matt Pelech squaring off with St. Louis forward Ryan Reaves. After the penalties were sorted out, the Sharks got power-play goals from Couture and Pavelski to seize control of the game and it was all San Jose from there.
Second-period goals from Tommy Wingels and Scott Hannan staked the Sharks to a 4-0 lead that grew to 5-0 when Joe Thornton scored early in the third. Two St.Louis goals by Vladimir Tarasenko and Roman Polak made it 5-2, but Patrick Marleau scored his fifth of the season to keep the game out of reach.
"They did a good job of not saying, 'Let's get out there and even the score,'" Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told the Post-Dispatch of the Sharks' mindset after the incident. "And after that we played on our heels a bit. We were worried about what's going to happen to us after that, whether they were going to retaliate.
"Too many penalties. They have too many good guys on their power play. They're going to expose us."
The victory extended the Sharks' season-opening streak to six wins while the Blues suffered their first loss in five games.
Still, it was Boyle's condition and the hit that caused it that dominated everyone's thoughts after the final horn.
Boyle stayed on the ice for several minutes and appeared motionless until he moved his right arm just as the stretcher was about to leave through the Zamboni exit on its way to Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
"He went to the hospital, and from what I understand he's doing OK," coach Todd McLellan said. "They're going to keep him tonight just for some observation."
Later, a team spokesman said the plan was for Boyle to leave the hospital in the morning and, accompanied by a staff member, fly home to San Jose. There was also the possibility, though, that he could rejoin the team in Dallas, where the Sharks play the Stars on Thursday night.
At 37, Boyle is the team's oldest player and one of two assistant captains. He won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and played for Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics.
"He's so well-liked in this room," Thornton said. "It takes awhile to get back focused, to be honest with you, because he's such a good friend. It was just scary."
All of which, again, led to the contrast with Lapierre.
"A player that probably shouldn't even be in the league is taking out one of the best players in the world," Couture said.
Players were reluctant to say they picked up any added motivation after the hit. The Sharks were outplaying the Blues before the hit, but the intensity did seem to pick up and the results were there in the two goals with a man advantage.
"Guys responded appropriately. It was great to see the power play wake up and respond to that," Pavelski said. "We needed to. We needed to turn it up a little bit."--
(c)2013 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services