After a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Tuesday, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was suspended for a game for a bizarre play in which he swung his stick at an opponent's head. Malkin got a game misconduct and a five-minute major for the play, and he'll now miss Wednesday's game against the Oilers as a result of it.
With about five minutes left in the third period, Malkin got tangled up with Flyers forward Michael Raffl near the benches. The exchange was a bit chippy and Raffl delivered a crosscheck to Malkin's back, then a punch to the back of his head. The Penguins forward was clearly irritated by Raffl and responded by recklessly swinging his stick in Raffl's direction as he skated away.
The stick connected with Raffl's head and referees immediately blew the whistle to kick Malkin out of the game.
Malkin didn't expect the suspension after the incident.
"I didn't hit him in the face," Malkin told The Athletic's Josh Yohe after the game. "If I had touched him in the face, for sure, I would get suspended. It's a high stick, but it's not like I broke his face. I think I won't get suspended."
Despite Malkin's confidence, he acknowledged that it was stupid play.
"It was a little bit dangerous," Malkin added of his stick swing. "But nothing real bad, I didn't think. It's my fault, for sure. The refs thought it was dangerous. Next time, I need to play smarter."
The Department of Player Safety disagreed. "This is not a reckless play where a spinning player loses some amount of control over his stick," it said in a video. "This is an intentional stick swing directed at an opponent with force, at a dangerous height, with the purpose of retaliation."
The DPS also noted Malkin's two previous fines in his career, including a $5,000 fine against the Kings for spearing Kings defenseman Dustin Brown in retaliation. This is the first suspension of Malkin's 13-year career.