NHL slaps Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov with one-game suspension

Kucherov could face suspension for hit on Nutivaara

The NHL department of player safety has announced that Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov has been suspended one playoff game for boarding Columbus defender Markus Nutivaara. As the Blue Jackets defenceman tried to get back on his feet, Kucherov hit him into the boards again.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said he didn't see the hit and had intentionally not reviewed it before his post-game news conference.

Here's the play, which occurred with less than five minutes remaining in the third period of Friday's 5-1 loss that put the top-seeded Bolts in a stunning 0-2 hole.

The Lightning forward, who led the National Hockey League with 128 points during the regular season, was assessed a two-minute tripping penalty, five minutes for boarding and a game misconduct.

The league ruled that Nutivaara was in an "exposed and defenseless" position when Kucherov delivered a unsafe hit that drove him into the boards.

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Columbus leads the opening-round series 2-0 and will host Tampa Bay on Sunday night.

Kucherov, who led the league in scoring with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists), is the favorite for the Hart Trophy, given to the league's MVP.

The Lightning outscored Columbus 17-3 in winning all three meetings in the regular season.

Despite that, his absence would be a massive blow to the Lightning going forward and if the Blue Jackets get up 3-0 in the series, it could be almost impossible for Tampa Bay to come back despite the awesome regular season it just had.

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