The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Thursday evening that Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen has been suspended for Game 6 of the first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series after cross-checking Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher in the jaw during Game 5 on Wednesday.
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After Gallagher retrieves the puck along the boards, Niskanen chases him and cross-checks him in the jaw with 5:08 left in the third period. There was not a penalty on the play.
The Canadiens announced on Thursday that Gallagher will not be available for the remainder of the first round due to a broken jaw. He will also have to go outside of the Eastern Conference bubble in Toronto to undergo surgery.
Just before the regular season ended on March 12, the 33-year-old was fined the maximum $5,000 allowable under the CBA for slashing Columbus Blue Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist on February 20. Though, Niskanen, who recorded eight goals, 33 points, and a +15 rating in 68 regular-season games in his first season with the Flyers, has never been suspended in his 949-game NHL career.
Losing Niskanen would be a big blow to the top-seed in the Eastern Conference. He is arguably their most reliable shut down defenseman and helped defenseman Ivan Provorov immensely this season as he went from a -16 rating last season to a +11 this year. Niskanen was acquired from the Washington Capitals in exchange for defenseman Radko Gudas on June 14, 2019, after spending five seasons with the Capitals.
Niskanen has a +2 rating and averaged 22:04 per game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, second on the team behind Provorov (25:18), including 2:56 on the penalty kill.
The Canadiens won Game 5 by a score of 5-3 but the Flyers still lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 set for Friday night at Scotiabank Arena (7 PM ET, NBCSN).
By Harrison Brown