Players, fans salute Kozari following injury in 3rd

PITTSBURGH -- Referee Steve Kozari was taken off the ice on a stretcher after colliding with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Haydn Fleury at 6:11 of the third period in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 5-4 victory at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday.

Kozari remained down as Fleury was assisted to Tampa Bay’s locker room. The 46-year-old was attended to by 11 medical staffers, some from each team and others from Pittsburgh Medical Services.

"I caught it out of the corner of my eye," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "Tampa's defenseman ... was coming off the bench. I think both of them were looking at the puck, as was I. So I caught it out of the corner of my eye. But at the last second, they collided and, I believe, they hit helmet to helmet.

"So it was really a scary collision because I don't think Steve had the ability to break his fall when he fell to the ice. We certainly hope he's going to be OK. That was a scary moment in the game."

Kozari, who was transported to UPMC Mercy hospital for precautionary reasons, has use of all his extremities and is expected to make a full recovery.

Players from each team surrounded Kozari as he was placed on the backboard. He was able to move his arms.

"It was bad," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "Didn't look good. Obviously, wish Steve the best. Hopefully he's all right. But I think anytime something like that happens, and you've been a part of games like that, you just try to regroup as fast as you can. They (the Lightning) probably did a better job of that than we did."

Kozari has officiated 1,151 regular-season games in the NHL and 136 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including four Stanley Cup Finals.

He was a referee in the Western Hockey League (WHL) for 10 seasons after officiating games in minor hockey around his hometown of Penticton, British Columbia. He was named the best referee of the WHL after the 2002-03 season and worked the Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup in 2003.

In late June 2003, he was invited to the NHL Officiating Prospects Camp in Guelph, Ontario, and was offered an NHL minor league referee contract.

Kozari was promoted to full-time NHL status in the summer of 2007.

Fleury, who did not return Saturday, has five points (one goal, four assists) in 23 games this season.

"That was tough to watch," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We've had, between that one and [Tampa Bay defenseman Mikhail] Sergachev, we've had some tough instances to see that happen. But 'Fleur,' I went into the locker room during that pause. Naturally, he was a little shook up. It was just one of those plays that was kind of a freak accident. But hopefully, both guys will be OK."

The game finished with one referee and two linespersons.