Thrashers starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was taken off the ice on a stretcher after losing consciousness and collapsing during the Thrashers season opener Friday night.
According to team officials, Pavelec, 23, was taken to an undisclosed local hospital for further evaluation. Pavelec later regained consciousness and was in stable condition. Preliminary tests were negative and Pavelec was said to be asking about the score of the game from the hospital. He was held overnight for observation. There was no word of the cause of the collapse.
“It was awful,” said Thrashers goaltender Chris Mason, who came in relief of Pavelec in the 4-2 victory. “You imagine his family across the sea, they are probably following the game and something like that happens. It must be a helpless feeling. It was tough. To be honest, I had trouble focusing when I first got in there. I couldn’t stop thinking about him.”
Thrashers players learned that Pavelec was in stable condition during the first intermission. Defensman Dustin Byfuglien urged teammates to win the game for Pavelec.
“It’s something where you step up and play hard,” Byfuglien said. “He wouldn’t have quit working if it happened to someone else. We can’t do the same. We felt bad for him. As a team we had to come together and get the victory for him.”
Pavelec collapsed while the action was at the other end of the ice, just 2:25 into the game. Medical personnel immediately rushed to Pavelec’s aid after he was spread out on the ice.
Television replay showed Pavelec crouched in the goal crease at the far end of the ice with the Thrashers in the Washington Capitals’ zone. When Pavelec came back into view, he was down on the ice.
“We got through the first period and that was the hardest part,” Mason said. “It was hard trying to focus and play a game and have that killer instinct and game mentality when you can’t stop thinking about your teammate.”
“It takes courage and some leadership,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. “We called them over and just talked about the fact that … would he like us to just fold up our tent and go home? And the obvious answer is no. I thought the players responded extremely well and I thought our goalie went in and was just wonderful.”
There was no visible movement from Pavelec as the stretcher was being removed from the ice. He was going in and out of consciousness while being loaded for transport.
The Capitals took a 1-0 lead 53 seconds after the game resumed. However, the Thrashers answered with three straight goals, two by Evander Kane. Andrew Ladd also scored his first goal was a Thrashers. Fredrik Modin iced the game for the Thrashers with a third-period goal after the Capitals had pulled to within 3-2.
“Everyone was on the same page to win one for him,” Kane said. “… A lot of people were concerned that we didn’t win a game in the preseason but I think we had the confidence in the room to know we were a better team that than and we were able to show it tonight.”