The Philadelphia Flyers were dealt a big blow on Monday when Claude Giroux was given a one-game suspension for his hit on New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus during Sunday night’s Game 4 contest.
Giroux, who leads the Flyers in scoring eight goals and 17 points in the Stanley Cup playoffs, nailed Zubrus at 19:56 of the second period. He received a two-minute minor for an illegal check to head.
The Devils won the game 4-2, and now hold a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal matchup.
Zubrus, who scored the eventual game winner earlier in the period, was shaken up on the play but returned to score an empty-net goal to seal it late.
Giroux was suspended for breaking Rule 48: A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head, where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.
Giroux took part in a disciplinary hearing with the NHL on Monday. He said he "respects the decision and wants to move on."
"As the video shows, after pulling even with Zubrus on the back check, Giroux chops down on Zubrus’s stick and then well after the puck has been chipped into the corner, Giroux comes across Zubrus’s body and drive upward with his shoulder, making principal point of contact with Zubrus’s head," NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said as he explained the suspension.
Shanahan also said the motivation for Giroux's hit stemmed from his anger from an earlier play where he felt a penalty should’ve been called on New Jersey defenceman Mark Fayne, who checked the Flyers sniper into the boards.
"As we watch Giroux earlier in the shift, he dumps the puck in the New Jersey end and is legally finished by Devils defenceman Mark Fayne. As the puck is shot past Giroux he displays frustration at the referee and even goes to the degree of turning his back to the play to make his point."
"He then turns back to refocus on the puck, recognized there is a turnover and begins to pursue Zubrus and delivers a late, reckless hit to the head."
Before the suspension was announced, Giroux said he was finishing his check and never intended to hurt Zubrus.
"I was trying to finish my hit and he kind of leaned in and I kind of hit him, my shoulder to his head," Giroux said. "My elbow was down. I didn't jump.
"I'm a pretty honest player. I'm not a dirty player. I'm not out there to hurt anybody. I was just trying to finish a hit."
Shanahan said at no time during the play did Zubrus drastically lower his head and give Giroux no time to avoid a potential head hit.
"In spite of the fact that Zubrus is bent over in a skating posture, the positioning of his head does not significantly change before Giroux recklessly picks it," Shanahan said.
Game 5 is scheduled for Philadelphia on Tuesday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).