Toronto Maple Leafs superstar forward Auston Matthews has been suspended two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for his cross-check to the neck of Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin during Sunday’s Heritage Classic.
During the third period of Buffalo’s third-period win at the outdoor game in Hamilton, Ontario, Dahlin and Matthews began to battle in front of the Sabres’ net before Dahlin shoved the Toronto star to the ice. Matthews got up and sent a high cross-check with both hands to the neck of the Buffalo blueliner.
“This is cross-checking. While we acknowledge Matthews’ argument that this is not a cross-check meant to harm or injure his opponent, it’s also not a routine motion to gain body position,” Player Safety explained in its ruling. “Matthews aggressively retaliates by raising his stick significantly and creating this contact. This is a high, forceful cross-check that makes contact with an opponent’s neck with sufficient force to merit supplemental discipline.”
It’s the first time in Matthews’ 390-game career that he has been suspended or received any sort of discipline from the NHL.
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As one of the game’s most recognizable stars playing for one of the league’s blue-chip franchises in the Maple Leafs, Matthews is experiencing the finest season of his career. A goal in Sunday night’s loss was the 24-year-old’s 45th goal of the season in just his 56th game, which leads the league. He led the NHL last season in goals, too, with 41 in 52 games.
His absence will provide quite the blow for a Maple Leafs team that is holding onto the last secure Atlantic Division playoff spot by just two points over the Boston Bruins. Toronto. has lost four of its last six games and face will be without their best player against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday and the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.