The National Hockey League on Wednesday suspended third-year Ottawa Senators defenceman Jared Cowen two games for his hit to the head of Buffalo centre Zemgus Girgensons on Tuesday night.

Cowen was not penalized at 18:02 of the third period when he skated across the ice to hit Girgensons as the Latvian forward entered the Ottawa zone.

Girgensons was not injured and later scored the shootout winner for the Sabres. That factored in to NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan's decision, as did Cowen's lack of a disciplinary history.

Cowen will miss Thursday's game against Buffalo and Saturday's game against Los Angeles.

His lost salary, $31,794.88 US, goes to the players' emergency assistance fund.

Click below to listen to Shanahan's explanation of Cowen's punishment.

Also Wednesday, Tampa Bay right-winger Richard Panik was suspended two games.

He was assessed a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct after he hit Washington Capitals blue-liner Karl Alzner into the boards in the neutral zone at 16:31 of the second period.

Alzner, whose head hit the dasher board, was attempting to chip the puck into the Lightning zone. He left the ice but returned for the third period in a game won 6-5 by Washington in a shootout.

“I’m completely fine,” Alzner told the Washington Post, adding he did not undergo concussion testing protocol. “It was more scary than anything. But I have no … after-effects. My head feels fine. I’m pretty lucky.”

Alzner said he was aware Panik was pursuing him on the play.

“I fumbled the puck, I went to go poke it in and I’m not in the best position,” said Alzner. “You kind of hope the guy lets off a little but it was fast.

“I don’t hold anything against [Panik].”

Last January, Panik was playing in the American Hockey League for the Syracuse Crunch and was suspended three games for a check from behind that left Girgensons concussed.

At the time, Girgensons said Panik hit him directly in the head and face.

On Monday, the NHL suspended Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal five games for kneeing Boston’s Brad Marchand.

The next day, Shanahan handed Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf a two-game ban for his hit from behind against Bruins defenceman Kevan Miller.

On Friday, Boston tough guy Shawn Thornton will have an in-person hearing after he pulled Pittsburgh defenceman Brooks Orpik down from behind out of a scrum and proceeded to punch him in the face while he was laying on the ice in Saturday's game.

Thornton had been suspended indefinitely pending the hearing and will have missed three games by the time he has the meeting. The league offers in-person meetings for any suspension that has the potential to exceed five games, but it could also be less.

With files from The Canadian Press