Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen has been suspended one game for a reckless cross-check to the face of Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher.
Gallagher, clearly bloodied, suffered a fractured jaw that required surgery. There’s no timetable on his return.
No penalty was called on the play by referees Chris Lee and Kyle Rehman.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety called the hit a ‘sharp, forceful blow.’ More from the league:
“While we accept Niskanen’s argument that he was not attempting to strike Gallagher in the head, Niskanen is intentionally attempting a cross-check to the upper body of Gallagher to knock him to the ice. We also agree with the Flyers’ assertion that players regularly use their sticks to defend areas of the ice, establish body position, or move their opponents off the puck and that the majority of those plays can be sufficiently be penalized by the on-ice officials.”
“Finally, it is also important to note that we believe the sudden and significant movement by Gallagher contributes to the fact that this blow lands on his head rather than somewhere else on his body. However what causes this play to rise to level of supplemental discipline is the force of the blow and the fact that the original intent of the play was to deliver a forceful stick foul to the upper body of an opponent. Players are responsible for their stick at all times, and when a player attempts to intentionally use his stick to deliver a blow to his opponent, he cannot be excused from responsibility when it recklessly lands in an unintended area.”
Nick Kypreos called it, looking for one game on the play.
“I don’t care what era we’re from,” said broaccaster and former NHLer Nick Kypreos. “In the 1980s or the 1990s when I played, that’s a suspension. It could be two [games], my guess is it should be one.”
The Canadiens provided some supplemental footage to Player Safety for their review in addition to what was captured via the broadcast cameras.
“The video will definitely explain what they’ll see,” said Habs coach Kirk Muller. “We’re going to leave it with the league and we’ll have confidence that the video will show what it shows.”
#Habs Muller says the team has sent this video (shot by their social media cameraman) to the league as an alternate angle of the Niskanen crosscheck on Gallagher to support their belief that supplemental discipline is warranted against the #Flyers defenceman. https://t.co/sH6dznVgvD
— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) August 20, 2020
Flyer head coach Alain Vigneault downplayed the incident.
“In my estimation, Gallagher got up and seemed fine, he was talking to the referees, the whole time he was on the bench, he was talking to our players for the rest of the game,” said Vigneault. “Gallagher’s a very competitive player, but I don’t think it’s [Niskanen’s] fault he might not be as tall as some of the other guys but he competes as big, if not bigger, than anybody else. It just seemed like a hockey play that unfortunately cut [Gallagher] a little bit.”
The Flyers blueliner had never been suspended, but was fined $5000 in February for slashing.
Niskanen will be eligible to return to the Flyers’ lineup for Game 7 against the Canadiens, if necessary, or in their opening game of the Second Round, should the Flyers win in Friday’s Game 6.