Maple Leafs’ Jake Muzzin stretchered off with apparent neck injury

It was a scary scene at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday afternoon as Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin was stretched off late in the third period.

With Toronto on the penalty kill, the Blue Jackets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois cross-checked Muzzin from behind when he was about to go around the back of his own net.

Muzzin went down on one knee along the boards as he played the puck and, as he tried to get up, appeared to hit a rut with the front of his skate and fell awkwardly into the leg of Columbus’ Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The veteran’s head and neck seemed to be impacted in the collision, resulting in the stretcher coming out; he was seen opening and closing his hands and moving his legs after the incident and head coach Sheldon Keefe said he was “responsive” at the hospital.

“Seeing a guy like Jake, that everyone cares about, he’s very well-loved in the locker room,” said netminder Frederik Andersen. “Being as tough as [he is], it’s really hard to see him being told to lay down and not move…we’re just thinking about him and making sure that all the right steps are being taken and hopefully recover soon.”

“He does a big part for this team: penalty kill, even strength against the best players, against the other team,” added Mitch Marner, who was on the ice when Muzzin got hurt. “He really does mean a lot to us so, you know, kind of being beside him there when he did go down, stay down obviously it’s a little worrisome.”

Without fans in attendance, it was incredibly quiet inside the arena as both teams looked on with concern. As Muzzin was stretchered off, both teams tapped their sticks.

“Seeing one of your teammates go down, especially a guy like Muzz, you know the type of warrior he is. I think what he brings to our team is unmeasurable,” said captain John Tavares. “Obviously very tough. All signs were very positive being around him and nice to close it out for him but certainly tough to see, especially just how much we love that guy.”

The injury came with just under two minutes left in the Maple Leafs 3-0 win over Columbus, evening the qualifying round series at 1. Game 3 is Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

Should he recover this postseason, Muzzin would need to quarantine before coming back to the NHL bubble. It’s unclear how long that process would take.