The Rangers will be without John Moore for the next two games for an illegal check to the head of Montreal's Dale Weise in the third period of Game 5 on Tuesday.
After a hearing Wednesday afternoon, the NHL said that the 23-year-old defenseman delivered the check after tracking Weise and the "full onus" was on Moore to not make direct contact with the head.
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In its explanation, the NHL's Department of Player Safety said it was not a late hit, took into account that Moore, who was assessed a five-minute match penalty and ejected, had no previous record and that, according to Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, Weise sustained a concussion on the hit.
The two-game ban is the same as the punishment levied to Montreal's Brandon Prust, who broke center Derek Stepan's jaw with a blow during Game 3. If the Rangers end the series against the Canadiens Thursday night in Game 6, Moore would have to sit out the opener of the Stanley Cup Final.
With the Canadiens ahead 6-4 in the third period on Tuesday night, Weise carried the puck over the red line, passed to Lars Eller at the right boards and got slammed by Moore, with whom he had a running battle. Moore's right shoulder hit Weise's head, he fell and his helmet flew off, but the former Ranger recovered and skated to the Canadiens' bench at 10:41. He went to the trainer's room and returned with 3:45 left.
Before the suspension was levied, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault defended Moore, who dressed for 17 playoff games, averaging 14:05 on ice. "It doesn't meet the league standard as far as a late hit. It was a hit that Johnny caught him a little high in the chest; it probably warrants the penalty that was given on the ice. I don't see what else it could warrant, but I've been surprised before," Vigneault said . "The player didn't see him coming, obviously, but the guy was admiring his pass a little bit at the same time. Unfortunately, because of the force of the hit, the head seemed to snap back a little bit."'
Moore, who was acquired from Columbus in the Marian Gaborik trade in April 2013, has one assist and 17 shots in the playoffs, and is a plus-4. He scored four goals and 15 points during the season.
Raphael Diaz, who played two seasons in Montreal and was acquired from Vancouver at the trade deadline, is expected to take Moore's spot on the third defense pair with Kevin Klein. The Swiss blueliner, who played in Games 3 and 4 against the Penguins, averaged 18:07, with six shots and no points.