TORONTO - Maple Leafs captain John Tavares was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a collision early in Toronto's first-round playoff matchup with the Montreal Canadiens Thursday.

The 30-year-old centre crashed into Montreal's Ben Chiarot 10:29 into the first period and was hit in the head by Corey Perry's knee as he fell.

Trainers and doctors from both teams rushed to the ice and attended to the veteran forward before he was taken away, encouraging him to stay down as he struggled to get up.

Tavares gave a thumbs up as he was wheeled off the ice and transported to hospital.

Players from both teams tapped their sticks and “Courage” by The Tragically Hip played over the sound system at Scotiabank Arena as he left.

The Canadiens posted a statement on Twitter expressing concern for Tavares and wishing him a speedy recovery.

Tavares had 50 points (19 goals, 31 assists) in 56 regular-season games this year.

Moments after play resumed, Perry dropped the gloves with Toronto's Nick Foligno in a short fight. Both were handed five-minute fighting penalties.

Thursday's game kicks off the first-round playoff series between the two North Division teams. It's the first time since 1979 that the Leafs and Habs have met in the playoffs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2021.