Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals was assessed a match penalty at the end of their Game 3 loss to the Boston Bruins for cross-checking Rich Peverley in the face. As per the rulebook, he was suspended, pending an NHL review of the incident.
The NHL reviewed it; and Backstrom's 1-game suspension was upheld for Game 4. Here's the Brendan Shanahan explanation:
From the NHL:
Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom has been suspended for one game for cross-checking Boston Bruins forward Rich Peverley during Game 3 of the teams' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal playoff series Monday night in Washington, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.
The incident occurred at 20:00 of the third period. Backstrom was assessed a match penalty for attempt to injure.
Did they get it right?
Washington Capitals Coach Dale Hunter defended Backstrom's actions ahead of the suspension on Tuesday, saying:
"I don't think he's going to be suspended. If you slow it down frame by frame, where was [Peverley's] stick? It was up in his face first," the Caps coach said. "Re-watch it again, where his stick's up in his face, and Nicky because of the stick in his face, that the guy put his stick up like that and Nicky reacted to it."
Shanahan spoke directly to the fact that Peverley had his stick up:
"Even though Backstrom might have felt threatened by Peverley's stick, the fact is that Peverely is in a defensive stance and it is Backstrom who is approaching him. Backstrom's reaction is excessive and reckless."
We're a little surprised the NHL chose to suspend Backstrom, given his lack of previous run-ins with the Dept. of Player Safety, the lack of injury to Peverley and, frankly, his importance to the Capitals in a Game 4, down 2-1 in the series.
To that last point: For those of us outraged over the decision not to suspend Shea Weber for his face-smash of Henrik Zetterberg, due in part to his value to the Predators, the NHL did here what it should have done then — judged the intent and actions of the play, not the value of the player.