John Tavares will be out indefinitely after sustaining a concussion in the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
The forward fell near the blue line after being checked by Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot and then was hit in the face by the left knee of Montreal forward Corey Perry with 9:31 remaining. He was taken from the ice on a stretcher.
Tavares was examined by the St. Michael's Hospital neurosurgical team and the Maple Leafs medical director, and after staying overnight was home Friday and under the supervision of team doctors.
"The support I've felt from last night cannot be put into words. I'm thankful to share that I'm back home and recovering," Tavares tweeted Friday. "Thank you to my family, friends, teammates, the Maple Leafs organization, Leafs Nation and the hockey community for being by my side. Also, thank you to both medical teams, emergency services and everyone at St. Mike's hospital for their exceptional care to help me get back on my feet.
"I look forward to when I can wear the Maple Leaf on my chest again. Until then I'll be cheering on the boys along with Leafs Nation as we compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs."
Perry said after the game the collision was an accident.
"He got hit and I was coming out of the zone," Perry said. "He fell and I tried to jump over him and unfortunately I caught my knee on his head. I don't know what else to do there. I know Johnny pretty well. I just hope he is OK."
[RELATED: Complete Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]
Tavares attempted to get up but staggered backward from his knees. He remained on the ice at Scotiabank Arena for about seven minutes before leaving. He gave a thumbs-up while departing.
"Just horrible," Toronto forward Nick Foligno said Thursday. "Life comes into play at that point, and just seeing how he was in pain, it made you sick to your stomach. You think about him as a family man too. The game kind of takes a back seat no matter the circumstances when you see somebody in that much pain and an unfortunate play like it was."
Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said it one of the tougher moments he's had in hockey.
"To be honest, it was difficult," he said. "I've experienced a lot of different things, a lot of tough injuries and stuff like that in my time as a player and as a coach. In an empty building like that, it was probably the most uncomfortable situation that I've been a part of on the ice. It was really tough to get through. Our players were rattled and concerned. I was obviously very concerned as well. Happy to hear that things are settling down and all of that, but it was a very tough moment."
Foligno and Perry fought each other as soon as play resumed.
"I felt sick to my stomach when I saw it," Perry said. "It was a scary situation. I'll reach out to him and talk to him and hope he's OK. Nick came up to me and said, 'Let's just settle this now, let's not wait.' You've got to do what you've got to do."
Josh Anderson gave Montreal a 1-0 lead 1:38 after play resumed, at 12:08 of the first period. William Nylander tied it 1-1 4:28 into the second period.
"It was obviously something that will take the air out of the building," Montreal goalie Carey Price said. "We all collectively just had to try to get back going. It took a few minutes of game time to get that energy back."
Paul Byron's shorthanded goal broke the tie with 7:16 remaining in the third period for the 2-1 final.
"We had ample time to settle and regroup," Keefe said. "I thought it took us quite a bit of time to really find ourselves after that. It was a difficult situation for everyone and I'm sure that would include Montreal."
Tavares scored 50 points (19 goals, 31 assists) this season, including 22 (nine goals, 13 assists) in the last 19 games. He played 2:53 in Game 1.
"Obviously tough," Toronto forward Mitchell Marner said. "That's our captain, our leader. It's tough seeing him in that spot, tough seeing him there. Obviously, we hope the best for him."
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is at Toronto on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
"In terms of losing John, that's a big loss for us, but we've got lots of depth," Keefe said. "Obviously, we'll make a lineup change to adjust to it. All our guys are just going to have to play better. It's a big loss, it's our captain. Good teams overcome these types of things and that's going to be on us here now."
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger and independent correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed to this report