THE CANADIAN PRESS -- BOSTON - Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton will miss the rest of the Stanley Cup final with a severe concussion suffered as the result of a late hit from Vancouver Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome on Monday night.
Horton had just passed the puck early in the first period when Rome lowered his shoulder and left his skates to flatten him. Rome delivered what the Bruins saw as the kind of hit the NHL has tried to eliminate after several players sustained severe concussions.
The 26-year-old Horton, the right-winger on Boston's top line, was reportedly knocked unconscious by the collision, hitting his head on the ice and staying down for several minutes while medical personnel attended to him.
He left Boston's 8-1 victory on a stretcher and was taken to hospital, where he remained overnight.
"He's been a great teammate for us all year," said forward Mark Recchi, who scored two goals in Game 3. "It's tough to see your teammate down on the ice.
"We know it was late, but we're not in control of what the league does."
CBC Sports is reporting that the NHL has suspended Rome for four games on Tuesday morning.
"Two factors were considered in reaching this decision [on the suspension]," said NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy in a statement. "The hit by Rome was clearly beyond what is acceptable in terms of how late it was delivered after Horton had released the puck and it caused a significant injury."
If the Cup final ends before Game 7, Rome's suspension will carry over to next season, the NHL added.
The Bruins updated Horton's condition in a release Tuesday morning.
Horton has eight goals and nine assists so far in the playoffs for Boston, which trails the best-of-seven final 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Horton is second in the playoffs with a plus-11 rating, and became the first player in NHL history to score a game-winning goal in a Game 7 twice in the same post-season run.
He skates on a line with centre David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Boston coach Claude Julien hadn't yet decided how to replace Horton after the Bruins' victory Monday night.
Horton has been a hero in the post-season for Boston, which is in the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 21 years. Horton scored the winning goal in overtime in Game 7 of the first round against Montreal — and again in the Eastern Conference final, getting the only goal in Boston's 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay late in the third period.
Horton is in his first career post-season after spending his first six seasons with the Florida Panthers. The former No. 3 overall draft pick has 168 goals and 180 assists in 502 games.
Horton was Boston's second-leading goal-scorer this season with 26 and finished fourth in team scoring with 53 points.
While Horton is a key offensive player for the Bruins, the 27-year-old Rome is a depth defenceman for the Canucks, usually playing in their third pairing. He has one goal and 37 penalty minutes in the post-season.
Vancouver already lost defenceman Dan Hamhuis to an undisclosed injury in Game 1 of the final. The Canucks are deep on defence, with veteran Keith Ballard sitting out the first three games as a healthy scratch.