TORONTO -- The New Jersey Devils were shocked and upset, worried less about their playoff loss and more about the health of teammate Scott Niedermayer, who was knocked cold by the elbow of Toronto's Tie Domi.
''Disgusting,'' said forward John Madden, after watching a replay of Domi delivering a flagrant elbow that struck Niedermayer fully across the chin with about 20 seconds left in Thursday night's Eastern Conference semifinal series.
''Irresponsible, a person like that shouldn't be given the right to run around with a hockey stick in his hand and play in the league,'' Madden added, after the Devils lost 3-1 to the Maple Leafs, leaving the best-of-seven series tied 2-2, with Game 5 at New Jersey on Saturday.
With under 20 seconds remaining, Niedermayer was skating up along the left boards in the Toronto zone when Domi caught him well behind the play. There were 7.4 seconds remaining when play was finally stopped after officials discovered Niedermayer lying motionless on the ice in front of the Toronto bench.
Niedermayer appeared to be unconscious for about three minutes. He was carted off on a stretcher but had the strength to walk into the dressing room at the end of the game.
Domi was issued a five-minute match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure. The Maple Leafs announced that Domi will have a meeting with the NHL on Friday to determine if further action is necessary.
Few of the Devils saw the hit because it happened 70 feet from their bench on the same side of the boards.
After watching replays, some players compared the hit to when Boston's Marty McSorley used his stick to crack Vancouver's Donald Brashear over the side of the head in a game 14 months ago.
Brashear sustained a severe concussion and McSorley was issued a one-year suspension by the NHL. McSorley was also charged by Vancouver authorities and convicted of assault with a weapon. He was given a conditional discharge, meaning he has no criminal record if stays out of trouble for 18 months.
''Obviously, he didn't hit him with a high stick, but if you look at the McSorley incident, obviously he's not playing in the league and for good reason. And nobody wants him to,'' Madden said. ''The league's got to step in and say, 'Listen, enough is enough. We're going to start punishing people to the point where you would never do it.''
Domi did not make himself available to the media.
Toronto's Gary Roberts, who spoke with Domi, said, ''No one likes to see a guy get hurt like that. In Tie's defense, from what he had to say, I think they kind of crossed paths and ran into each other. And let's hope that's all it was.''
Replays showed Domi, who's much shorter than Niedermayer, purposely lifting his elbow high and outside his body as the two passed each other.
Devils captain Scott Stevens, who was across the ice in the penalty box, saw what happened, and reacted angrily, immediately yelling at the officials.
''We know what his intent was. I saw the whole thing,'' said a calmer Stevens, who waited about 45 minutes after the game to talk to reporters.
''We have to worry about playing hockey. We have to focus on the right thing,'' Stevens said.
New Jersey's Bobby Holik said it was time for the team to band together.
''There's a way to get back at the Maple Leafs and the best way is to win the next game,'' Holik said.
Blues 4, Stars 1
ST. LOUIS -- No one's calling Roman Turek a weak link anymore.
Another big game from Turek, a supposed liability in goal heading into the playoffs, helped the St. Louis Blues advance to the NHL's final four for the first time in 15 seasons.
Turek made 32 saves in another dominant effort against his old team as the Blues completed a shocking sweep of the Dallas Stars with a 4-1 Game 4 victory Thursday night. Turek, the former understudy to Ed Belfour, is 7-0-2 against his old team and allowed only six goals on 112 shots in the series.
''Roman was by far the most valuable player of this series,'' teammate Scott Young said. ''We're getting the best goaltending there is.''
Dallas reached the Stanley Cup finals the last two years, winning in 1999.
''We've had a wonderful run, but it's over,'' coach Ken Hitchcock said. ''We have to look at ways to retool to get back to the top.''
The Blues, who were eliminated in the first round last spring after winning the Presidents' Trophy, completed their first sweep since taking out the Los Angeles Kings in the first round in 1998.
''It's unbelievable we won 4-nothing,'' Turek said. ''If somebody told me this before we started playing the first game, I wouldn't believe them.
''The most important thing that happened is we won both games in Dallas and that was unbelievable confidence for us.''
The Stars, who lost the finals in six games to the New Jersey Devils last spring, were swept for only the second time in franchise history. The only other time was 1984 when they lost to Edmonton in the Campbell Conference finals.
Alexander Khavanov, Keith Tkachuk and Chris Pronger scored, and Pierre Turgeon had two assists for the Blues, who entered the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Western Conference but will carry a six-game postseason winning streak into the conference finals against either Colorado or Los Angeles.
The Avalanche, the top seed in the West, leads that series 3-1 heading into Game 5 on Friday night.
The Blues beat Belfour twice in a dominating second-period stretch, during which they outshot the Stars 10-0. After Pronger's goal with 3:49 to play sewed it up, seconds after Belfour thwarted Dallas Drake on a deflection, several brooms were tossed onto the ice.
Brenden Morrow's apparent goal with 2:34 was disallowed because the puck was passed with a high stick. When St. Louis' Scott Young scored into an empty net with 1:24 to go someone tossed a stuffed octopus onto the ice.
Khavanov, whose goal forced overtime in Game 3, put the Blues ahead at 9:28 after Belfour stopped Pierre Turgeon on a break-in. Khavanov tapped the puck in before Belfour could corral the rebound with his stick.
Tkachuk also scored on a rebound during a power play at 14:37 of the second for his second goal of the playoffs. After a drive by Al MacInnis, Tkachuk slid a backhander around Belfour.
In the third period, the Blues' defense short-circuited comeback efforts. St. Louis held a supposedly desperate team to three shots in the first 15 minutes, and eight overall.
The first two periods belonged to Turek.
The Stars had several excellent chances in the scoreless first period. The most bizarre miss came when Joe Nieuwendyk's rebound shot deflected off a loose stick flying through the air in the crease with about 3 1/2 minutes to go.
Turek also stopped a tip by Brett Hull just as an interference penalty against Young expired. The puck popped out of his glove, but he swatted it out of the air before it could go over the goal line.
In the first period, he rescued an Alexei Gusarov giveaway by stopping Jere Lehtinen. He then made a sliding save to stop Mike Modano on a Stars power play. With 37.8 seconds to go in the second, he made a diving save on Nieuwendyk.
''I knew before the game they would have a very good start,'' Turek said. ''They had to. I was pretty sure they would shoot from everywhere.''
The lone miss-step was deciding to come out of the net to try to glove a bouncing puck headed his way. Nieuwendyk barely beat him to it and slid the puck into an empty net for his 100th career playoff point, cutting the Blues' lead to 2-1 at 16:40 of the second period.
The Stars were held scoreless in three power plays, continuing the postseason dominance of the Blues' penalty-killing unit. They've allowed only one goal in 39 power plays.
Notes: The Blues clinched a playoff series at home for the first time since 1996, when they beat Toronto in the first round. ... The Stars went with new blood for Game 4, with forwards Tyler Bouck and Roman Lyashenko and D Sami Helenius dressing for the first time. Ted Donato, Grant Ledyard and Grant Marshall were scratched. All three of the replacements played sparingly. ... Turgeon leads the Blues with 12 points in the playoffs on three goals and nine assists. Young has four goals and six assists. ... The Blues and Stars have met 12 times in the playoffs and each team has won six times. ... St. Louis has outscored its opponents 29-17 in 10 playoff games.
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