Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher has been suspended five games for an illegal hit to the head of New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech. Gallagher used his elbow to check Pelech in a nasty open-ice hit during Thursday night’s game, won 4-3 by the Canadiens.
In the third period, Pelech was carrying the puck through the neutral zone when Gallagher came across the middle of the ice and elbowed Pelech. The hit knocked Pelech off his feet, and he did not return to the game after being taken to the locker room.
Gallagher received a match penalty, and the Islanders scored a pair of goals on the ensuing five-minute power play.
On Friday, Gallagher had a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety, and the league chose to suspend him for five games. The Department of Player Safety explained its decision in a video released Friday evening, noting that Gallagher’s hit was a textbook illegal check to the head.
“It is important to note that both elements of the illegal check to the head rule are satisfied on this play,” the DoPS explained. “First, the head is the main point of contact as Gallagher’s elbow makes direct and forceful contact with Pelech’s head, and it is the head that absorbs the vast majority of the force of the check.
“Second, the head contact on this check is avoidable. Gallagher chooses an angle of approach that cuts across the front of Pelech’s body. Recognizing he may be about to miss his check, and in an attempt to get a piece of Pelech, Gallagher then flares his elbow and extends his elbow upward, hitting his head with significant force.”
Gallagher, who has eight goals and eight assists on the season, will not be able to return until the Canadiens’ game against the New York Rangers on Thursday, Feb. 15.