When Islanders star Mathew Barzal cross-checked Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta in the face as the second period of Monday’s Game 5 concluded, all focus immediately shifted to his pending Game 6 availability.
Now, Barzal and the Islanders can take a deep breath.
The NHL Department of Player Safety on Tuesday fined Barzal $5,000, the maximum allowable under the CBA, meaning he will avoid a suspension.
The speedy forward will have his spot atop the Islanders depth chart. The team will need him — down 3-2 in the series, they face a do-or-die Game 6 on Wednesday.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz — who has been tough on Barzal in the past — was “disappointed” in Barzal for putting his digging his team into a deeper hole. However, the franchise center’s teammates sympathized with the context of the situation.
“Emotions are running high out there,” Islanders forward Jordan Eberle said of the incident. “Sometimes things get heated and they escalate. He and the rest of the group will respond with the home crowd behind us.”