ATLANTA – Atlanta Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec was in stable condition at a hospital Friday night after collapsing to the ice in the early minutes of the season-opening game against the Washington Capitals.
Thrashers GM Rick Dudley told The Associated Press during the second intermission that the 23-year-old Pavelec had regained consciousness at a hospital. The team later released a statement saying preliminary tests failed to determine any serious health problems.
“He’s awake, alert and asking about the score of the game, but will be kept overnight for observation,” the statement said.
Chris Mason took over for Pavelec after a delay of about 20 minutes and gave up a goal less than a minute later. But the Thrashers learned during the first intermission that Pavelec was responsive, and newcomer Dustin Byfuglien urged his relieved teammates to win one for their ailing goalie.
Mason made 29 saves—15 in the final period—and the Thrashers pulled off a surprising 4-2 victory over the Capitals, who had the NHL’s best record last season.
“I was really shaken, really concerned,” said Evander Kane, who scored two goals for Atlanta. “It was so unexpected. I didn’t see it. I just saw he was on the ice. I think we all saw it at the same time.”
There was a whistle at the opposite end when Pavelec tapped his stick on the ice a couple of times, looked toward the Atlanta bench and fell over backward with no one around just 2:25 into the game. His teammates rushed to his aid and immediately called for doctors and a stretcher to be brought to the ice.
Medical personnel worked over him for about 10 minutes before he was wheeled off, appearing to still be unconscious.
The game resumed after a delay of about 20 minutes, but Mason said it was hard to think of anything but Pavelec.
“You’re thinking about his family and everything. It’s awful,” Mason said. “Honestly, it was really tough. When I first went in there, I could barely concentrate. I couldn’t even think about playing a game.”
Even though they signed Mason over the summer, the Thrashers believe Pavelec has the potential to develop into the sort of top-flight goalie the team has lacked for its entire NHL history.
He signed a two-year deal in the off-season after going 14-18-7 with a 3.29 goals-against average and two shutouts in 42 games. It was his first full season in the NHL.
Pavelec also was a member of the Czech Republic’s team at this year’s Vancouver Olympics.
The native of Kladno made his league debut Oct 20, 2007, allowing a goal on six shots in one period. He was taken 41st overall by the Thrashers in the 2005 draft. For his career, he is 20-28-7 with two shutouts in 61 games.
The Thrashers, who play Saturday night at Tampa Bay, will call up a goalie from their AHL affiliate in Chicago to back up Mason until Pavelec undergoes a full battery of tests to determine why he collapsed.