The Bruins continued their winning ways at the Garden yesterday, pinning a 4-2 loss on the Carolina Hurricanes, but they also continued to pay a steep price in terms of injury.
A sellout crowd of 17,565 sat in near silence after Patrice Bergeron, felled in a second-period collision with Canes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg in open ice, needed 3-4 minutes to regain his feet after taking the force of the hit directly to his head and banging his head hard upon falling to the ice.
Bergeron, who missed the remainder of last season after sustaining a Grade 3 concussion on Oct. 27, 2007, required assistance to regain his feet, but he ultimately skated off under his own power and then made his way slowly down the runway next to the Boston bench and into the dressing room.
"He said he could skate himself," said veteran center Marc Savard, who initially served as a crutch at Bergeron's right elbow, while Chuck Kobasew propped up the left side. "So that was a good sign."
As of late yesterday afternoon, the 23-year-old Bergeron was at a local hospital for evaluation, suspected to have suffered a concussion and undoubtedly out of service for at least the next couple of games (tonight in St. Louis and Tuesday in New Jersey).
The Bruins, as is their wont, provided scant information about the injury, coach Claude Julien offering little more than the fact that the center was "a little dazed" by the hit, and promising the club eventually would release details about his condition.
"We will make sure we have the right evaluation," said Julien to the media, "when we get it out to you."
Julien did say he spoke with Bergeron in the dressing room after the second period and, according to the coach, Bergeron said "he got dinged pretty good."
The injury, which left Bergeron listless on the ice for some 90 seconds before he began to move his legs, came less than 48 hours after valued wing Marco Sturm, playing in his first game in nearly a month, wrenched his right knee in the opening minutes of an 8-5 win over Toronto at the Garden. Sturm yesterday was placed on long-term injured reserve, which will sideline the 30-year-old for at least 30 days.
The Bruins also are without two of their better defensemen, Aaron Ward and Andrew Ference, both of whom have leg injuries.
Ward could be back soon, but his timeline remains uncertain. Ference, who suffered a fracture that required surgery in November, isn't expected to return until early- or mid-January.
Bergeron's injury cast a pall over what was Boston's 13th straight victory on home ice. After allowing a handful of goals in Thursday's thumping of the Leafs on Causeway Street, they fell behind early to the Canes, Joni Pitkanen nailing in a power-play goal from the left faceoff circle at 4:50 of the first period.
Savard, who scored in Thursday's win after a 10-game goal drought, nailed in the equalizer at 7:06 of the second. Phil Kessel assisted, his lone point of the day, but it extended his league-leading point streak to 17 games (14-12 -26).
Bergeron's injury followed only 1:31 later, as he attempted to close in on the puck-carrying Seidenberg.
Kobasew moved in from Seidenberg's left, and as the onrushing defenseman gave up the puck and straightened up, his heavily padded right shoulder connected with the left side of Bergeron's face. Bergeron's body appeared to go limp upon impact, and he did not appear to have full consciousness upon hitting the ice.
The Bruins put together back-to-back goals in the third period to build a 3-1 lead by 11:54.
David Krejci, serving double duty at center with Bergeron out, skated into a makeshift line with wingers Vladimir Sobotka and Shawn Thornton and nailed in the go-ahead goal at 3:54 off a perfect cross-slot feed by Sobotka. Then it was Thornton's turn, picking up a puck off the rear boards and skating alone to the front of the net to mash it past Cam Ward. The clever Thornton said he shouted "Reverse!" to get defenseman Joe Corvo to cough up the puck, then stole it for the easy goal.
The Canes, playing with greater effectiveness since the return of coach Paul Maurice to their bench, cut it to 3-2 at 15:24 when Ray Whitney tapped in a Rod Brind'Amour relay that bounced around the goalmouth for a second or two too long.
But with 2.2 seconds left, and Ward out for an extra attacker, Stephane Yelle popped in an empty-netter.
The win brought Boston's point total to 50, tops in the Eastern Conference and second only to San Jose (53). But as the points go higher, so do the injuries, X-rays, CAT scans, splints . . . and worries.