Capitals’ Matt Niskanen Ejected for Brutally Crosschecking Sidney Crosby in the Face

Sidney Crosby has been a force during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ second round series against the Washington Capitals. He recorded two goals in Game 1 and two assists in Game 2, and the Penguins took a 2-0 series lead.

The good news for Capitals fans is that defenseman Matt Niskanen finally figured out a way to stop Crosby in Game 3. The bad news is that it entailed crosschecking Crosby in the face.

Six minutes into Game 3 in Pittsburgh on Monday night, Crosby was skating past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby when he bumped into Alexander Ovechking, lost his balance, and went down on one knee. Unfortunately, right as Crosby went down, former teammate Matt Niskanen came flying in and crosschecked him in the face.

Take a look:

Niskanen was given a five-minute major penalty and a 10-minute game misconduct. Crosby did not return to the game.

“It wasn’t intentional,” Niskanen told reporters after the game.”I’ve seen the replay in super slow-mo, it looks really bad. I caught him high. I hope he’s OK. Certainly didn’t mean to injure him. It’s an unfortunate play that happened really quick.”

“I wasn’t even trying to cross-check him with a serious amount of force,” Niskanen continued. “A collision was going to happen there in the crease. When the play first starts, I think my stick had about his arm level probably right about where the numbers are on the side of his jersey. Because he’s trying to make a play, he’s getting lower and lower. He’s getting pressured.”

The play certainly did happen quickly, and Crosby was going down. Niskanen’s claim that it was an accident is very plausible. Ultimately the NHL department of player safety is going to have to make the call.

Needless to say, the Penguins are not happy.

“You look at it once and you see what actually happened,” Penguins defenseman Chris Kunitz told the Washington Post. “I think the next thing is watching how deliberate it was when the guy kind of cross-checks him in the face. I thought all that was kind of out of this league, but I guess not.”

What makes this situation even worse is that Sidney Crosby has a history of head injuries. He missed 101 games over two seasons in 2011 and 2012 after taking an elbow to the head from Washington’s David Steckel during the 2011 Winter Classic. If he’s diagnosed with another concussion, there’s no telling how many games Crosby could miss.

Stay tuned.

Hat Tip – [CBC]