New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal was ejected from Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning for crosschecking defenseman Jan Rutta. Player Safety has determined that he won’t miss any more time.
Barzal has been fined $5000 for his crosscheck, lightening his wallet but keeping him in the Isles’ lineup for Game 6.
The hit came in the closing seconds of the second period Monday night, with the Islanders trailing 6-0. Barzal delivered a crosscheck to Rutta’s shoulder, then followed up with another to the Lightning defenseman’s face, knocking him to the ice. Rutta did not return for the third period.
Barzal was given a five-minute major for crosschecking, along with a game misconduct. Referees Francis Charron and Gord Dwyer reviewed the play, confirming their call on the ice.
In the ensuing scrum, the Islanders’ center appeared to try to wrestle himself away from linesman Kiel Murchison. No additional penalties were called on the play, leaving Barzal lucky to have avoided a penalty – and possible automatic suspension – for physical abuse of officials.
40.4 Automatic Suspension – Category III – Any player […] who deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.
Note that the automatic suspension only applies when the player is penalized in-game for abuse of officials.
“Emotions are running high out there,” New York’s Jordan Eberle said of the incident. “Sometimes things get heated and they escalate. He and the rest of the group will respond with the home crowd behind us.”
We’d love to see Player Safety ratchet things up for ‘non-hockey plays’ or altercations after the whistle. This is not a hit that came slightly late, or one that was delivered to an opponent who was otherwise eligible to be checked. This wasn’t a cross-check battling for the puck or to gain positioning on the ice, or a high stick while attempting to play the puck. There was no ‘hockey play’ portion to this cross-check. This was purely a shot intended to injure. If the league wants to clean up some of the nastiness out there, stepping up the penalties and disciplinary action there would be a good place to start. A one-game ban would’ve been significant — but not undeserved.
Barzal will be back in the lineup for Game 6 in New York on Wednesday night.