PHILADELPHIA – Florida left wing David Booth was taken off the ice on stretcher after a hard hit from Philadelphia captain Mike Richards, overshadowing the Flyers’ easy victory over the Panthers on Saturday night.
Danny Briere had two goals, Arron Asham scored for a third straight game, and Simon Gagne ended his longest goal drought to start a season in the Flyers’ 5-1 victory.
Booth, who scored the Panthers’ lone goal, left the ice on a stretcher near the end of the second period following a hard blow to the face from the Flyers captain. He was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital, where he will remain overnight for tests, according to Panthers’ GM Randy Sexton. A member of the team’s medical staff will remain with Booth until he is able to return to Florida.
Sexton said it’s too early to determine the extent of the injury, but said Booth appeared to have regained consciousness as he left the ice and was coherent in the hospital. The GM didn’t hide his feelings about the play, saying “there is no place” in hockey for hits like that.
With 2:55 left in the second, Booth had just released the puck in front of the Flyers’ blue line, and Richards plowed into him, striking him with his left shoulder. Both of Richards’ feet appeared to leave the ice as he smacked into Booth.
Booth immediately fell face down and remained motionless for several minutes. Both teams trainers and Flyers team physician Gary Dorshimer attended to him, and several players gathered around him, including Flyers’ defenceman Chris Pronger. Booth was wheeled off following a seven-minute delay.
Richards was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct for intent to injure. He could face a suspension, pending a review.
“I’m never out there to hurt anyone,” Richards said. “I have respect for the game and respect for the players. My concern is with him. Hopefully, he’s fine and gets better. I just wanted to separate him from the puck. He dished it off and everything happened so quickly. I don’t have a history of head shots and I don’t even know if it was a head shot.”
Panthers defenceman Keith Ballard offered a different take.
“Richards knows (Booth) is in vulnerable position and goes after him,” Ballard said. “He’s done it before. That’s the same stuff they’ve been trying to cut out. The thing with Mike Richards is he’s a good, honest player. I love a lot about him game. He does a lot of things well, but then he does that stuff.”
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren thought the hit was clean.
“I don’t see how they can view it like that,” Holmgren said. “Mike was doing his job. His feet never left the ice. It was a shoulder hit. David Booth turned his head. It looks like he saw him at the last second, but turned his head and his head took the blow. It would have been shoulder on shoulder if not. It’s a physical game and sometimes these things happen. I feel bad for David Booth. He’s a good young player. Hopefully everything is going to be all right.”
Asham’s goal broke a 1-1 tie early in the second period, taking a feed from Richards – one of his two assists – and firing a shot past goalie Tomas Vokoun. It was the first time in Asham’s 11-year career that he has scored in three straight games.
Rookie James van Riemsdyk capped the scoring with his first career goal.
The Flyers (5-2-1), who snapped a three-game losing streak on Thursday night, have won two in a row. The Panthers (2-6-1) have lost three straight.
Briere had his 28th career two-goal game, scoring Philadelphia’s first and fourth goals. His first came after a backhand flip from van Riemsdyk, who stripped the puck from Brian McCabe and fed Briere. Gagne recovered Richards’ shot during a power play, and flipped it over Vokoun.
The Panthers mood changed after Booth left the game.
“You’re worried about his welfare,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “It’s a scary sight when you have a player totally unconscious on the ice. You’re not thinking about hockey. You’re hoping he’s all right.”