2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Nikita Kucherov suspended for one game after 'dangerous' hit in Game 2
The desperate Lightning will be without their best player for Game 3
Not only is the Tampa Bay Lightning in a stunning 2-0 hole to the Blue Jackets as their first-round series heads to Columbus, but the Bolts will also be without their best player when they hit the ice for Game 3.
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov has been suspended for one game as the result of an illegal hit he threw in the third period of Friday's Game 2 loss. As Tampa Bay trailed 5-1 with under five minutes to go, Kucherov tripped Columbus defenseman Markus Nutivaara and then delivered a dangerous follow-up hit on Nutivaara, which was ruled to be boarding.
Kucherov was handed a two-minute minor for tripping, a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct as a result of the sequence. But he received further supplemental discipline Saturday, when the league's Department of Player Safety announced that they were giving the forward a one-game ban.
The league ruled that Nutivaara was in an "exposed and defenseless" position when Kucherov delivered a dangerous hit that drove him into the boards. The DoPS also ruled that Kucherov's hit fell under the category of "message-sending" due to when it occurred.
"Late in the game with the score out of reach, Kucherov delivers this dangerous blow to an opponent he will be facing in the next game," the league said in its official suspension video. "While we understand that frustration often occurs at the end of a game, dangerous or retaliatory plays delivered in the final minutes of a playoff game will be viewed in context and punished accordingly."
The suspension for Kucherov is be a massive blow for the Presidents' Trophy-winning Lightning, who are desperate to climb back into the series after two stunning losses to Columbus. Kucherov might be this year's Hart Trophy-winner as league MVP, as he led the league with 128 points during the regular season.
Kucherov has zero points through the first two games of the series.
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