With their season on the line Wednesday night, the New York Islanders will have the services of their best player, Mathew Barzal.
Barzal, the high-flying forward who has six goals and 12 points this postseason, was fined $5,000 Tuesday, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for a cross-checking penalty on Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta in Game 5 Monday night. But Barzal was not suspended by the league, and will play Wednesday as the Islanders look to keep their season alive after a humiliating 8-0 loss.
Barzal's infraction came in the closing moments of the second period. It was one of several scrums throughout the game Monday night, as tempers boiled over while the Lightning cruised to a 3-2 series lead in the NHL semifinals.
Barzal's was the most noteworthy. Rutta and Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau battled in front of the Tampa Bay net, with Rutta delivering a series of cross-checks. As Rutta skated to the bench, Barzal engaged with him, delivering a cross-check to his shoulder and then one that appeared to strike Rutta across the face.
Rutta dropped to the ice with Barzal on top of him as the buzzer sounded to end the second period. The referees called Barzal for a five-minute major and a game misconduct, and reviewed the play to confirm the call.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz said he was disappointed in Barzal's decision to engage with Rutta, who did not return for the third period.
"It wasn't going well, and he dug it a little deeper for the guys," Trotz said. "The biggest concern you have as a coach is losing another guy, because they're blocking shots and things like that. So, I am disappointed in his decision there."
It was the first major penalty of Barzal's career in either the regular season or the playoffs. Barzal is one of the Islanders' leading scorers in the playoffs, with six goals and six assists in 16 games.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper, in his postgame availability, did not offer an update on Rutta, who did not return in the third period.
New York Islanders' Mathew Barzal draws fine, but eligible to play in Game 6 after dodging suspen...
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