LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Vegas Golden Knights will be without their best defenseman in Game 5 with their second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers hanging in the balance.
Alex Pietrangelo was suspended for one game Thursday by the NHL Department of Player Safety for his slash on Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl in the final two minutes of the Oilers’ 4-1 victory Wednesday night that knotted the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Friday night in Las Vegas.
“That was a really, really dangerous slash,” Draisaitl said before the announcement. “I think those are things that have nothing to do with hockey or the game. You can seriously injure someone with a slash like that.”
Oilers captain Connor McDavid said Pietrangelo should be suspended. His coach, Jay Woodcroft, agreed: “I would not define it as a hockey play and I’d leave it at that.”
The NHL cited Pietrangelo’s history of not having previously been fined nor suspended in his 15-year career, indicating it was a reason he didn’t receive harsher punishment.
“He’s got no history of suspension or being called on the carpet by the league,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Petro’s a pretty honest player, I can attest to that. We love the way he plays the game for us.”
The Oilers will be without defenseman Darnell Nurse, who received instigator and misconduct penalties for fighting Nic Hague after Pietrangelo’s slash. Because the instigator penalty occurred in the final minute, it carries an automatic one-game suspension, a decision upheld by the NHL.
“I was surprised,” Nurse said. “You go through the whole sequence of events, being asked multiple times to fight by him, even multiple times before the puck dropped during the sequence of the play. It is a fight that takes place between two people who I think were willing to fight.”
Woodcroft was fined $10,000.
Tensions have been high throughout the series and they came to a boiling point Wednesday. Misconduct penalties were handed out to Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson, Jonathan Marchessault and Brett Howden as well as Edmonton’s Kailer Yamamoto and Evander Kane. The Knights’ Hague went out for fighting.
Kane, a longtime Knights nemesis dating to his days with the San Jose Sharks, has been at the center of the bad blood. He took a running start at the end of the second period in Game 3 and cross-checked Pietrangelo; one game earlier, Kane was assessed a double minor and 10-minute misconduct after repeatedly hitting Vegas’ Keegan Kolesar as he lay on the ice.
The Knights were the NHL’s least-penalized team during the regular season, but they haven’t been faultless in this series. Pietrangelo received a roughing penalty in Game 1.
This series has turned into a best-of-three, and it could be decided by which is the more disciplined side.
“The clean physicality is fine,” Cassidy said. “The stuff that isn’t should be addressed and should be managed in game by the officials.”
PANTHERS at MAPLE LEAFS, Florida leads 3-1 (7 p.m. EDT, TNT).
Joseph Woll was a wall for Toronto in Game 4, and now the rookie goaltender — taking over for the injured Ilya Samsonov — gets a chance to win another elimination game Friday night when the series returns to Toronto. Matt Murray will remain the backup.
“It isn’t a reflection of how we feel about Matt Murray. It is more about how we feel about Joe Woll and his development over the last year,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said.
Toronto has scored two goals in six consecutive games despite its roster full of stars. The Maple Leafs haven’t had a streak of two goals or less in that many games in a row since November 2011 and haven’t had exactly two goals (excluding shootout goals) in six straight games since December 1956.
That bodes well for the notion that Toronto’s offense is due to break out.
Or, it could be argued that Florida’s defense is on point right now.
“We don’t have to do anything different, just have to keep playing our game,” Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky said. “Be patient. They are a good team. Nobody said it’s going to be easy.”
The Panthers would have preferred not getting on a plane for Toronto, but there isn’t any sense of discouragement — especially with a 3-1 lead.
“It was so much fun,” Bobrovsky said of Game 4. “The atmosphere was great. Again, I was fortunate to be there, to be on the ice and had a good game, had fun out there, so looking forward to next game.”
Leafs forward Mitch Marner was asked if he thought some pressure would shift back to Florida, after the Panthers missed a chance at finishing off a sweep — and giving Toronto new life in this series.
“Who cares? We’re about ourselves in here,” Marner said. “We’re focusing on ourselves. We’ve got to keep this effort up.”
The Canadian Press, AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Sunrise, Florida, contributed to this report.
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