Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse has been suspended one game for headbutting Los Angeles Kings forward Phillip Danault.

The two were battling in front of the net late in the second period of Game 5, with the Kings on the power play.  Nurse got away with an unpenalized slash on Danault with the puck at the point. After goaltender Mike Smith stopped a shot from Kings winger Adrian Kempe, the two players again converged with Nurse delivering a hard, helmeted head-butt.



Rule 47 is clear on headbutts (emphasis ours):

The act of head-butting involves a player making intentional contact, or attempting to make contact, with an opponent by leading with his head and/or helmet.

A double-minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who attempts to head-butt an opponent.

A major penalty shall be imposed on a player who head-butts an opponent. When a major penalty is assessed under this rule, a game misconduct penalty must be imposed.

A match penalty shall be imposed on a player who injures an opponent as a result of a head-butt.

No penalty was called on the play by referees Gord Dwyer and Francois St. Laurent.  In these situations, the linesmen can also report if they observed a headbutt, since it would result in a major penalty.  Nothing was handed out, either for the headbutt or the preceding two-handed slash.

This was an easy call for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.  Nurse’s headbutt was clearly delivered with intent to injure; this is underscored by his violent slash moments earlier. There’s no justifying his actions as a legitimate hockey play.  Based on their history, Player Safety has consistently handed out 1-2 game bans for similar plays. Given the increased value of Stanley Cup Playoff matches, this fell right in line with our estimate of a one game suspension.

Nurse has been suspended once before, earning a three-game ban for being the aggressor in an altercation back in 2016.

Two players were suspended for headbutting earlier this season, with Pavel Buchnevich of the St. Louis Blues missing two games and Montreal’s Chris Wideman sitting for one.  Prior to this season, the last suspension for headbutting came way back in 2012.   Calgary’s Rasmus Andersson was fined $5000 for roughing earlier this season on a play many thought was a headbutt; Player Safety booked it as roughing after noting that Andersson’s glove resulted in the contact with Yamamoto’s head.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has had a busy postseason, handing out two suspensions – the other coming to Toronto’s Kyle Clifford – and issuing nine fines totaling $37,000.

Aside from a pair of matching minors and misconducts handed out to Nurse and LA’s Trevor Moore in Game 4, Nurse has only been called for two minor penalties in the series — none in Game 5. He deserved one here.  Good to see Player Safety hand out supplemental discipline on this dangerous play.

The Los Angeles Kings went on to with the game 5-4 in overtime. Referees were Gord Dwyer (#19) and Francois St. Laurent (#8); linesmen were Bevan Mills (#53) and Bryan Pancich (#94).