The NHL suspended Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov for one game for boarding Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara at the end of Friday’s game in Tampa, the league’s Department of Player Safety announced Saturday.
Kucherov first tripped Nutivaara and then slammed the defenseless Nutivaara’s head against the boards from behind.
The Lightning finished the regular season with an NHL record-tying 62 victories and were expected to dominate the eighth-seeded Blue Jackets in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoff series. Instead, the Blue Jackets won the first two games of the best-of-seven series on the road. Friday’s 5-1 loss came two days after Tampa Bay jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead only to lose 4-3.
Games 3 and 4 are in Columbus. Game 3 is at 7 p.m. ET Sunday (NBCSN).
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Last year, Columbus won the first two games of its opening-round series against the Capitals only to lose the next four and the series. The Capitals went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Kucherov led the NHL in scoring in the regular season with a career-high 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists). He had no goals or assists in the first two games and was minus-2.
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