GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Carl Hagelin still seem stunned a day after laying out Swedish countryman Daniel Alfredsson with an elbow to the head that left the Ottawa captain with a possible concussion and landed the mild-mannered New York Rangers rookie in trouble with the NHL.
Then it got worse Sunday night when he was hit with a three-game suspension.
To say that plays like this are out of character for the 23-year-old Hagelin would be an understatement. The speedy forward claims to have never been given a major penalty before—anywhere.
But Saturday, he elbowed Alfredsson along the boards during the second period of the Senators’ 3-2 overtime victory in Game 2 that evened the best-of-seven series. Alfredsson didn’t return to the game, and his health and status for the rest of the series was unknown Sunday
The Rangers were miffed by the severity of Hagelin’s punishment in light of Nashville’s Shea Weber receiving only a $2,500 fine for smashing the head of Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg into the glass at the end of Game 1 of that series. Zetterberg wasn’t injured on the play.
“The New York Rangers accept the NHL’s three-game suspension of Carl Hagelin and will not pursue an appeal,” the team said in a statement. “However, we are thoroughly perplexed in the ruling’s inconsistency with other supplementary discipline decisions that have been made throughout this season and during the playoffs.”
Hagelin wasn’t the only punished player from this rough night. Senators defenceman Matt Carkner was suspended for Game 3 for his actions in a one-sided fight with Rangers forward Brian Boyle.
Hagelin’s hit on Alfredsson occurred at 10:32 of the second period in the Ottawa end. After Alfredsson moved the puck along the boards, Hagelin landed his elbow on Alfredsson’s head, sending him into the glass.
“After Alfredsson chips the puck up the boards, Hagelin continues on his path and finishes his check with his arms high, recklessly striking Alfredsson in the side of head with his elbow,” league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said in a video explanation that accompanied the announcement of the suspension. “This hit is a clear violation of what is defined by NHL rules as elbowing.
“It is important to note that while Alfredsson saw this hit coming, and attempted to brace himself for it, in doing so he did not significantly change the position of his head. Also, although Alfredsson’s stick briefly comes up prior to contact, we do not feel this is a reasonable excuse for the elbow that took place. It is important to note that Alfredsson suffered an injury on this play. He immediately went to the dressing room and did not return to the game.”
The series is shifting to Ottawa, and Game 3 will be played Monday night.
The 39-year-old Alfredsson already has a concussion history. The right wing missed five games earlier this season because of a concussion sustained when he took a hit to the head from Wojtek Wolski—then of the Rangers—on Oct. 29.
“I sent him a text yesterday and said I’m sorry and very regretful for what happened,” Hagelin said about his fellow Swede. “I never want to hurt anyone on the ice. That’s not the type of player I am. I’ve never had a major before. Especially being Alfredsson, growing up he’s been a hero back home. He’s been one of my favourite players. He’s won the Olympics, the World Championship with Sweden, so obviously I had no intention of hurting him.
“I just hope he’s doing well.”
Hagelin had a phone hearing with Shanahan on Sunday, while his team practiced before flying to Ottawa. He already served a major penalty that produced the first tying goal for Ottawa, but now will be out until Game 6, or the opening game of the second round if the Rangers advance, or until next season if the Senators win this series.
During Hagelin’s long penalty, Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson sent a shot in off the skate of Rangers defenceman Michael Del Zotto to get Ottawa even at 1.
“It’s unfortunate,” Hagelin said. “You want to play in every game, and you especially don’t want to be in the penalty box for five minutes and give the other team a chance to get a power play, and you don’t want to hurt anyone on the other team.
“It’s obviously frustrating.”
Now without Hagelin for three games, the Rangers could turn to new forward Chris Kreider, who has yet to make his NHL debut since signing with New York last week after winning his second NCAA Frozen Four with Boston College.
Before the suspension announcement, Rangers coach John Tortorella refused to reveal what lineup changes he would make for Game 3 without Hagelin.
Despite the loss Saturday, Tortorella was particularly positive about how his team played. He was defiant when asked if the confidence of the Rangers—the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded team—was shaken at all by the defeat.
“Not a chance,” he said. “We are who we are. I’ve said it all along, I like the hockey club. I like the way we handled ourselves (Saturday) night. We didn’t get it done, but we’re not changing. I’ll tell you right now, we’re not adjusting. We’re going to go play.”
Another Rangers forward excited to get back on the ice is the feisty Brandon Dubinsky, who was ejected just 2:15 into Game 2 when he came to Boyle’s defence. In response to some gloved punches Boyle gave to Karlsson in Game 1, the Senators sent Carkner out to get the 6-foot-7 New York centre.
Carkner threw off his gloves and began punching Boyle, who never dropped his gloves. The blows continued even after Boyle fell to the ice and never punched back.
With neither of the linesman breaking up the scrap, Dubinsky charged in and was ejected for being the third man in. Carkner also was tossed and given a major penalty for fighting that gave New York a 5-minute power play that it failed to take advantage of.
Dubinsky flung a water cooler as he stormed down the tunnel after his ejection, following a tirade in the penalty box when he was informed he was done for the night.
“I was upset,” the fiery Dubinsky said Sunday. “Look, I don’t want to talk about it. We’ll be ready to play tomorrow. I’ll be ready to play tomorrow. We expect them to be good again and we need to be better. That’s what is important here: not what happened yesterday, but what’s going to happen tomorrow.
“You’ve got to stay disciplined because they have a good power play. At the same time, we’re not going to back down. We haven’t backed down from anyone all year. We’ll continue to play physical, and we anticipate they will do the same. That’s playoff hockey for you. We’ve just got to stick together and just play the right way, which is how we’ve been doing it all year.”
Carkner also spoke to Shanahan on Sunday before he was suspended. His ban was for “continuing to inflict punishment upon an opponent who was an unwilling combatant in an altercation,” the league said.
“Carkner instigated an altercation with New York forward Brian Boyle, who did not respond. After knocking Boyle to the ice with two punches, Carkner continued to throw punches at his opponent, who was an unwilling combatant. Carkner’s actions classified him as an ‘aggressor’ under NHL rules.”
“We discussed the incident this morning and I pleaded my case and now he’s going to figure out what he’s going to do,” Carkner told The Canadian Press before receiving the suspension. “Basically it was an instigated fight and I got the game misconduct, as well, and I got kicked out so I think that’s enough, but we’ll see.
Carkner’s contribution, however brief, wasn’t lost on his teammates.
“We wanted to be more physical as a group,” said rugged forward Chris Neil, who also fought Boyle before scoring the OT winner. “We came out and set the tone, and it paid off for us. Matt came out and did what he had to do and you can’t say enough about it.
“You need to play tough out there and we did that as a group.”