New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal has avoided a suspension for cross-checking Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta but will have to pay a $5,000 fine. That is the maximum allowable fine under the CBA. Barzal was given a penalty and a game misconduct at the end of the second period for the incident but will be able to re-join his team for the next game.
The Department of Player Safety obviously did not believe the cross-check rose to the level of a suspension, meaning the Islanders won’t be without their top forward for game six when they face elimination. Without Barzal, the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon, New York looked completely unable to mount any comeback against the Lightning. The game ended 8-0 in favor of Tampa Bay, while Matt Martin and Scott Mayfield were also given game misconducts late in the third period.
The Islanders now face elimination for the first time this postseason after eliminating the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins in six games. Tampa Bay has outscored them 17-8 so far, suggesting that Barzal and company will need a much better defensive effort if they’re to stay alive tomorrow night.