Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak has been suspended two games for elbowing Buffalo Sabres winger Kyle Okposo.
The questionable hit came with 1:37 remaining in the third period of Thursday night’s game, with the Bolts and Sabres tied at 5-5.
Okposo received a pass from Casey Mittlestadt in the neutral zone, pushing the puck ahead while being pursued by Tampa’s Brandon Hagel. Cernak cut across the ice at the blue line to deliver a hit, clearly extending his elbow and making contact with Okposo’s head.
The Sabres forward was in possession of the puck and eligible to be checked on the play, provided Cernak delivers a legal body check. Instead, the Lightning blueliner connected with an elbow up high. Okposo, attempting to avoid the hit, does cut back towards center, lowering his head just prior to the collision.
Here’s Rule 45:
Elbowing shall mean the use of an extended elbow in a manner that may or may not cause injury.
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a minor penalty, based on the degree of violence, to a player guilty of
elbowing an opponent.
A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who uses his elbow to foul an opponent. A major penalty must be imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent. … When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct penalty shall also be imposed.
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately
injured his opponent by elbowing.
No penalty was called on the play.
Okposo was not injured and did remain in the game.
Buffalo defeated the Lightning 6-5 in overtime. Referees were Marc Joannette (#25) and Jon McIsaac (#2), with linesmen Devin Berg (#87) and Matt MacPherson (#83). The same officiating crew will be handling Buffalo’s game against the Florida Panthers on Friday.
Cernak has previously been suspended for elbowing a member of the Buffalo Sabres, catching defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in 2019.
The Tampa defenseman forfeits $31,891.90 in salary as a result of the suspension. He’ll be out of the Lightning lineup for games against Detroit and Pittsburgh, returning on Tuesday to face the Florida Panthers.