Matt Niskanen won't be suspended for hit to Crosby's head

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby left Game 3 of his team's playoff series against Washington after taking a hit to the head from Capitals defenceman Matt Niskanen.

'It wasn't intentional,' Capitals D-man says of cross-check to ex-Pens teammate

Hip Check: Penguins lose Sidney Crosby in Game 3 after hit to the head

6 years ago
Duration 0:38
Sidney Crosby went down hard after taking a cross-check to the head from Capital's Matt Niskanen in the first period of Game 3.

Washington Capitals defenceman Matt Niskanen will not be further disciplined by the NHL for his cross-check to the head of Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby on Monday night.

Niskanen's stick connected with Crosby's head at 5:24 of the first period in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal in Pittsburgh, won 3-2 by the Capitals in overtime. The Penguins forward had been knocked off balance by a Alex Ovechkin high stick to his upper body.

As Crosby fell to his right, a charging Niskanen raised his stick to brace for impact and was assessed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for his actions.

Crosby, who is third in Penguins' scoring in these playoffs with 11 points on four goals and seven assists, had to be helped off the ice at PPG Paints Arena and didn't return to the game.

"It wasn't intentional," Niskanen, a former teammate of Crosby, told reporters after the game. "I've seen the replay. In super slow [motion], it looks really bad. … I wasn't extending trying to hit him in the head. It happened quickly."

Pittsburgh players weren't buying Niskanen's explanation.

"It's one of those things you look at it once, you see what actually happened and the next thing is watching how deliberate it was when the guy cross-checks him in the face," Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz said. "I thought all of that was kind of out of this league, but I guess not."

Crosby, who is third in Penguins' scoring in these playoffs with 11 points on four goals and seven assists, had to be helped off the ice at PPG Paints Arena and didn't return to the game.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan announced Tuesday that Crosby sustained a concussion and will miss at least Game 4 on Wednesday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).

Fellow forward Conor Sheary also left Monday's game after colliding with teammate Patric Hornqvist and was also diagnosed with a concussion, Sullivan said.

'A hockey play'

The Penguins are already minus defenceman Kris Letang (neck surgery) and goaltender Matt Murray (lower-bodyinjury).

After Monday's game, Capitals bench boss Barry Trotz called Niskanen's hit "a hockey play" while Sullivan declined to share his opinion.

With Crosby out, the Penguins fell behind 2-0 before scoring twice in the final 1:53 to force overtime. But Kevin Shattenkirk's goal early in OT gave Washington a 3-2 win that cut its best-of-seven series deficit to 2-1.

Crosby's concussion history

  • Jan. 1, 2016: Took an elbow to the head from Washington forward David Steckel but didn't miss a game.

  • Jan. 5, 2016: Hit from behind by Tampa Bay defenceman Victor Hedman. He wouldn't return until Nov. 21, 2011.
  • December 2011: Played eight games before being removed from lineup with concussion symptoms, the result of a suspected elbow to the head by Boston's David Krejci. Crosby returned to the lineup March 15.
  • October 2016: Missed first six games of the season after sustaining a concussion in practice.

The Cole Harbour, N.S., native has missed 167 NHL regular-season games due to injury, including the first six of this season with a concussion he sustained during a pre-season practice.

Earlier Monday, Crosby was named a finalist for the sixth time in his career for the Hart Trophy — he won in 2007 and 2014 — as the league's most valuable player after topping the NHL with 44 goals and finishing second in points with 89.

A year ago, Crosby received the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after posting 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 24 contests and leading Pittsburgh to its fourth Stanley Cup title.