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Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard left Sunday's game on a stretcher after taking a vicious hit to the head from the Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke.

Savard, who suffered a concussion, released a shot in the offensive zone with 5:37 remaining in the third period. As he leaned forward in the slot, Cooke charged in from his right, blindsiding the Bruins playmaker.

"It's pretty obvious that was definitely a dirty hit," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "That's probably the classic blind-side hit to the head. ... I'm usually reserved in making comments, but definitely the league will take care of it."

Cooke's shoulder made clear and hard contact with Savard's head, sending him down hard. But Cooke was not penalized on the play.

"A guy like that has to be suspended," Julien said. "That's the way I see it because it's an elbow to the head from the blind side, and that's exactly the example they show, what we've got to get out of this game.

"We got a guy who's got a concussion, our best player, and he's going to be out for a while. He was out on the ice for a bit and that's unacceptable."

Medical personnel from the Bruins and the Penguins flooded the ice, surrounding the Ottawa native just inside the Pittsburgh blue line.

A stretcher was ushered onto the ice and the crew carefully secured the 32-year-old as players from both teams looked on.

Within rules

Cooke, a player with a reputation for borderline play, claimed he was playing within the rules.

"I felt like it was shoulder to shoulder," said Cooke, who is uncertain whether he will be suspended by the NHL. "I know he's shooting the puck but I just finished my check. I got hit the same way my shift before at centre ice by their defenceman, except I [ducked] at the last second."

Just after the contact, Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron immediately skated towards his teammate, signalling for medical assistance.

As the stretcher exited, Savard saluted the crowd, drawing a hail of applause from the Penguins faithful.

Savard was taken to a Pittsburgh area hospital for treatment.

With files from The Associated Press