Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting was hit with a three-game suspension on Wednesday for his illegal check to the head of Tampa Bay defenseman Erik Cernak during Game 1 of their playoff series
Bunting was given a match penalty and game misconduct for the hit and interference, which occurred with 4:20 remaining in the second period of the Lightning's win over the Maple Leafs. Cernak was knocked out of the game and has already been ruled out for Game 2 of the series on Thursday
Cernak was left "particularly vulnerable," the NHL said.
"This is an illegal check to the head delivered to a player who has no reason to anticipate any contact, let alone contact with sufficient force to cause an injury," the NHL said in a video announcing the punishment.
The Lightning were leading 4-2 at the time and tallied two more goals on the ensuing power play. They went on to a 7-3 win
Bunting will not be eligible to return until Game 5, should it be necessary. The suspension is the first of Bunting's career. He had also never previously been fined.
Bunting had 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) during the regular season, with 103 penalty minutes.
Cernak had 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) and 53 penalty minutes during the regular season.
--Field Level Media