Brendan Shanahan has now put his stamp on the playoffs.
Shanahan, the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, suspended New York Rangers forward Carl Hagelin for three games and Ottawa Senators defenceman Matt Carkner a single game for their actions Saturday night.
The Senators won the game 3-2, on Chris Neil’s overtime goal, evening the best-of-seven series 1-1.
On Sunday, all the action came off the ice.
Hagelin, who delivered a crushing elbow to the head of Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, received a big blow himself, now sidelined until a potential Game 6 of the series.
“Hagelin finishes his check with his arm high, recklessly striking Alfredsson on the side of the head,” Shanahan said in a video release late Sunday, following a hearing earlier in the day with the rookie Rangers forward.
Shanahan said the hit was in clear violation of the NHL’s policy against elbowing and that Alfredsson “did not significantly change the position of his head” as Hagelin approached. Before making his ruling, Shanahan also factored in the fact Alfredsson was injured on the play — he didn’t return following the hit, midway through the second period — and that Hagelin has no history of dirty hits.
Alfredsson’s status remains questionable for Monday’s game. He didn’t skate on Sunday, but Senators coach Paul MacLean said he was “feeling good” and would be evaluated further. Senators players were keeping their fingers crossed that their captain would be back.
“He’s still the same old happy guy, so hopefully, he’s fine,” Erik Karlsson said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and it will probably be a game-time decision.”
Jason Spezza called Hagelin’s hit “dirty” and “dangerous.”
“You never like seeing your captain down and Alfie doesn’t stay down unless he’s hurt,” said Spezza. “It was a scary moment for us to see him stay down.”
Hagelin, who received a five-minute elbowing major penalty following the hit, scored 14 goals and 24 assists in 64 regular season games. He also scored in the opening game of the series.
Hagelin texted Alfredsson, apologizing for the hit. He told reporters in New York Sunday that he never intended to hurt the Senators’ captain.
“I am not that kind of player, I have never had a major (five-minute penalty) before,” Hagelin said. “And especially being Alfredsson — he’s a big hero back home, one of my favourite players (growing up). Obviously, there was no intention on my part (to injure him). I just hope he’s doing well and can play.”
With Hagelin out of the lineup, it’s possible the Rangers could insert Boston College star Chris Kreider into the lineup. If Alfredsson can’t play, Senators coach Paul MacLean will replace him with either Bobby Butler, Kaspars Daugavins or Rob Klinkhammer.
Shanahan, who has had his hands full dealing with countless careless head shots in the opening games of the Stanley Cup playoffs, also suspended Carkner for being “excessively violent” and being an aggressor against an “unwilling opponent.”
In the opening minutes of Game 2, Carkner dropped his gloves to fight Rangers forward Brian Boyle, answering for what Carkner called “liberties” Boyle had taken against Karlsson in the opening game of the series.
But in his ruling, Shanahan said that Carkner punched Boyle “at least five more times” when Boyle refused to fight back. Shanahan also took into account that Carkner had a similar incident two seasons ago against the New York Islanders and that Boyle stayed in the game.
“We’re trying to win,” Carkner said, before being informed of Shanahan’s ruling. “I think we delivered our message. We won the game and now it’s a best-of-five series. It’s standing up for your teammates, and I think if Boyle had just stood up — he’s a big guy and he could have just held on to me — we wouldn’t be here talking. I was kind of upset he did what did.”
Senators general manager Bryan Murray felt badly for Carkner.
“We understand the league’s decision in the suspension, but are disappointed for Matt, whom we felt was being a good teammate by standing up to a tough opponent who had gone out of his way to take physical liberties on Erik Karlsson,” Murray said in a statement.
Senators coach Paul MacLean, also speaking before Shanahan’s ruling, was proud of the physical tone the Senators delivered, saying “we need to be more physical again in the third game.”
Zenon Konopka said both the Carkner play and the Alfredsson play affected the team.
“It’s a team mentality and nobody is bigger than the team and that’s pretty important right now.”
Konopka says it’s important for the Senators to put Game 2 behind them.
“Emotions run high and both teams are playing for their lives,” he said. “There’s a line. Has the line been crossed? In certain ways, maybe it has, but we need to win tomorrow and that’s our priority.”
Spezza agreed, saying that the players used Sunday as a day to relax and get caught up on sleep — only six skaters and backup goaltenders Ben Bishop and Alex Auld skated — in order to be ready for Game 3.
“We went over some of the video from yesterday’s game, the stuff we did well, the stuff we need to work on and now it’s time to park that game,” Spezza said. “It’s similar to when we lost Game 1. You go over it, look at what you did right and wrong and leave it alone. We have to come to the rink ready and rejuvenated. It’s going to be another tough game.”