The NHL suspended Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin for three games Monday for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Zbynek Michalek.

Ovechkin left his feet to hit Michalek against the boards in the second period of Washington's 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins on Sunday, making contact with the defenceman's head in the process. No penalty was assessed on the play but after further review, the league felt it was a charging incident that violated Rule 42.

"Often on big hits or collisions, a player's feet will come off the ice slightly as a result of the impact. This, however, is not one of those occasions," NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said in a video posted on the league's website. "Ovechkin drives up, launching and recklessly making contact with Michalek's head.

"While we accept Ovechkin's assertion that he did not intend to hit Michalek in the head, the moment Ovechkin launches himself in the air prior to the hit, he becomes responsible for any contact to the head."

Ovechkin is a repeat offender, who has been suspended twice and fined twice for physical fouls on the ice, Shanahan added.

The 26-year-old had a goal and two assists in the game for Washington, which trails Florida by one point in the Southeast Division. He will eligible to return on Feb. 4 against Montreal.

Ovechkin will forfeit $154,677.75 US. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

The Russian star has 39 points (20 goals, 19 assists) in 47 games this season.