NASHVILLE -- Likely to the surprise of no one in the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room, Predators forward Scott Hartnell pleaded innocence late Saturday night over the hit that sent defenseman Victor Antipin off the ice on a stretcher.
"I was on the forecheck, saw the guy reverse the puck. (The hit) wasn't late," Hartnell told Nashville reporters. "I just tried to rub him out and I think his chin hit the glass. You see a guy laying there and your stomach gets turned upside down. It's an unfortunate play. ... You're taught as a young kid to finish your checks. I wasn't head-hunting. We were leading the game at the time. It's just unfortunate and I feel really bad about it.”
Hartnell, 35, understood how the play changed the tenor of the game. He received a major penalty and game misconduct for the hit and the Sabres scored three times on the ensuing power play to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead. Buffalo went on to win 7-4.
"I wasn't head-hunting," Hartnell said. "We were leading the game at that time. Five-minute penalty and they score three quick ones, and that's really ballgame. It's unfortunate. I feel really bad about it. I didn't try to hurt the guy. It was just kind of a hockey play. Those plays happen 10, 15 times a game. It was just an unfortunate accident."