Lightning forward Alex Killorn will miss tonight’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final after being suspended for one game Thursday for a hit on the Islanders' Brock Nelson during Game 2.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety held a hearing Thursday and concluded that Killorn had time to change course on the first-period hit Wednesday that sent Nelson into the boards and therefore the play deserved a suspension.
“It is important to note that this not a case where a sudden or unexpected movement by Nelson just prior to contact turns a legal hit into an illegal one,” the department said on a video. “From the moment Nelson initially collects the puck until contact is made, Killorn sees nothing but his numbers.”
After Nelson got rid of the puck, Killorn made contact with Nelson’s shoulder as he went in on Nelson’s blind spot. Though Killorn stepped wide of Nelson, showing some attempt to come from the side, his angle of impact was still largely from behind. The hit caused Nelson’s head to hit the glass.
“This is a forceful hit from behind on a defenseless player who is no longer in possession of the puck,” the department said. “Therefore, what causes this play to rise to the level of supplemental discipline is the angle of approach Killorn takes and the fact that the puck has been gone for some time.”
Killorn was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct. Nelson left the game temporarily but returned to finish the game.
The league said that if Killorn wanted to avoid a suspension, he should have at least made an attempt to minimize the force of the hit, instead of finishing by “driving the defenseless Nelson into the glass dangerously.”
Islanders coach Barry Trotz said after the game the play was dangerous and the penalty had been called correctly.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper did not comment other than saying before the hearing that he’d be “mildly shocked” if the team was without Killorn tonight.
In the conference semifinal series against the Bruins, Boston forward Nick Ritchie hit Lightning forward Yanni Gourde from behind and was given a five-minute major for boarding. After that game, Cooper said that Gourde returning to the game and Ritchie serving the major probably saved Ritchie from a suspension. The hits were not the same, but Killorn also served substantial penalty time for his hit and Nelson finished the game.
This is Killorn’s first suspension. He had been fined once in his career.
No update on Brayden Point, per Cooper
With the Lightning having Thursday off after Wednesday’s 2-1 win, Cooper had no update on the status of center Brayden Point, who left the second period early with an injury. The Lightning coach said he hoped to have an update on Friday, ahead of Game 3 against the Islanders.
“It’s hard for me to give updates on Pointer right now,” Cooper said. “We’re actually off today, so it’d be pointless to really talk about it. I’m not trying to keep you in the dark or anything, but we won’t a better understanding until I talk to you guys (Friday) morning.”