Los Angeles Kings forward Blake Lizotte has been suspended one game for a cross-check to the face of Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey.
The incident came with 5:50 remaining in the second period of Saturday’s game in Los Angeles. The two players exchanged slashes in front of the Winnipeg bench, when Morrissey dropped his gloves in anticipation of a fight. Lizotte opted for a different direction, dropping Morrissey with a cross-check to the face.
Lizotte was given a match penalty for intent to injure by referees Pierre Lambert and Brian Pochmara, which the officials confirmed via video review.
Morrissey left the ice for medical attention, requiring multiple stiches to his face.
“It was a careless play,” said Morrissey. “I thought we were going to go and took a cross-check to the chin. It could have been my teeth, but thankfully not.”
“When a guy turns around and skates right at you, I think he’s looking to engage,” said Morrissey. “I said ‘Let’s go’ and dropped my gloves, and he got his stick up. I don’t think he’s skating around out there trying to cross-check guys in the face, but it happened.”
The cross-checking rule is rather straightforward:
Cross-checking [is defined as] the action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent. A minor penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent.
A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent. When a major penalty is assessed for cross-checking, an automatic game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the offending player.
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by cross-checking.
“It’s an uncalled-for cross-check into a guy’s face,” said Winnipeg head coach Rick Bowness, as reproted by The Athletic’s Murat Ates. “The league’s got to take a really good look at that one.”
They did, handing down a one-game ban.
Here’s the official ruling from the Department of Player Safety:
As the video shows, the two skate through the neutral zone as play moves towards the Kings’ end, with Lizotte restraining Morrissey slightly, and Morrissey responding with a light slash to the shin as the players separate. However, Lizotte then doubles back, turning away from the play and back toward Morrissey. Expecting an altercation, Morrissey drops his stick and gloves. Then, Lizotte raises his stick with two hands and delivers a blow that hits Morrissey directly in the face. This is cross-checking.
It is important to note that this is not a case of a stick directed towards the body that materially rides up the opponent.
This cross-check is delivered cleanly to head of Morrissey. Wnd while we understand Lizotte’s asserion that he does not intend to strike Morrissey in this manner, players are responsible for their stick at all times.
This is a reckless cross-check delivered well away from the play that strikes an opponent at a dangerous height with a force necessary to warrant supplemental discipline.
Lizotte forfeits $9,054.05 in salary as a result of the suspension.
The Jets scored on the ensuing power play, but were unable to put any other pucks past Los Angeles goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. The Kings went on to win the game 4-1. Referees were Brian Pochmara (#16) and Pierre Lambert (#37), with linesmen Jonathan Deschamps (#80) and Kilian McNamara (#93).
This is the second cross-checking suspension of the season, with Boston’s A.J. Greer also picking up a one-game suspension less than a week ago for a very similar play.