Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov has been suspended one game for boarding Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Markus Nutivaara.
The incident took place Friday in Game Two of Tampa’s playoff series against the Blue Jackets. The Lightning lost the game by a final score of 5-1, allowing Columbus to take a 2-0 series lead.
And Kucherov, presumably dissatisfied from being held of the scoresheet, took liberties with Nutivaara with just four and a half minutes left in the askew contest.
Kucherov, normally an offensive powerhouse, nailed Nutivaara while he was in a helpless position. The forward was ticketed with a match penalty on the play and had a hearing Saturday.
Now Tampa will be without Kucherov for a critical Game Three. They may also be without defenceman Victor Hedman, who didn’t practice with the team Saturday.
What can really be said?
Kucherov first tripped Nutivaara behind the Blue Jackets’ net. The defenceman subsequently fell into the boards and the forward plowed into him at his most prone position. Despite the fact that the puck is on Nutivaara’s stick, contact was an elbow to the head.
The argument can be made that a one game suspension was too light, but the Department of Player Safety is probably taking an overview. Here’s a scoring title player doing something thoughtless in a vital post-season situation. Here’s a playoff game suspension, which folklore tells us is worth two normal games. Here’s a play that, incredibly, didn’t lead to serious injury for Nutivaara.
Those are, apparently, the reasons that led to the single-game suspension for Kucherov.
Nevermind what one’s eyes can undoubtedly see on the play itself, which is a dangerous and moronic thing for Kucherov to do.
Tampa Bay has to win Game Three to have any remote chance of hanging in this thing. They’ll have to do it without Kucherov, which puts more pressure on Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. Regrettably for the Lightning, Columbus has been able to contain their biggest and brightest scorers. Kucherov, Stamkos and Point have been held off the scorecard and to a minus-seven in this series thus far.
(Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)