Updated May 11, 2023 - 6:38 pm
The final two minutes of the Golden Knights’ Game 4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday didn’t have any impact on the outcome. But it could have a major effect on the rest of the series.
Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was suspended for one game by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday for a slash on Oilers center Leon Draisaitl. Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse’s one-game suspension for instigating a fight with defenseman Nic Hague was also upheld.
That leaves both teams without their No. 1 defenseman before Friday’s pivotal Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena. The winner of Game 5 advances 78.9 percent of the time when a series is tied 2-2.
“It’s playoff hockey,” defenseman Alec Martinez said Wednesday night. “You know, these are emotional games. Every once in a while, stuff like that happens.”
Pietrangelo’s suspension is the first of his 15-year NHL career.
He slashed Draisaitl, who leads the NHL in goals and points in the postseason, using his hands away from the puck. Pietrangelo was given a major penalty and game misconduct on the play, which happened with the Knights trailing 4-1 with 1:27 remaining. Draisailt said Thursday “it was ugly” but added he was all right.
“In this case, the puck has been gone for some time before Pietrangelo chooses to ignore the play, raise his stick and deliver a slash to a vulnerable area of his opponent with sufficient force for supplemental discipline,” the NHL said in its explanation for the suspension.
Pietrangelo has been on the receiving end of late and aggressive hits in the series. Oilers right wing Evander Kane cross-checked Pietrangelo in the face well after time expired in the first period of Monday’s Game 3. Kane also sent Pietrangelo hard into the boards in Game 4 on Wednesday three minutes before the slash. That play led to a scrum that resulted in Kane and right wing Jonathan Marchessault getting misconduct penalties with 3:58 remaining.
Pietrangelo leads the Knights in ice time in the regular season and postseason. He tied his career high with 54 points this season while still handling difficult matchups each night.
“(Pietrangelo’s) a pretty honest player every day,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I can attest to that. We love the way he plays the game for us.”
Nurse’s suspension was automatic for getting an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of regulation. Coach Jay Woodcroft was also fined $10,000.
Nurse went from the point to below the goal line in the offensive zone with 50 seconds left to fight Hague, who was physically engaged with left wing Warren Foegele behind the boards.
Knights captain Mark Stone said Hague asked Nurse to fight during the previous faceoff. It didn’t happen. Stone said Nurse “jumped” Hague instead, but the Knights defenseman still managed to land the first eight punches of the scrap.
“That’s the way to answer the bell by him,” Stone said.
Nurse leads Oilers defensemen in ice time and has four points in 10 games in the playoffs. His 43 points in the regular season were tied for the most on the team’s blue line. He said Thursday he was surprised he was given the instigator penalty given he was asked by Hague “multiple times” to fight.
“It’s a fight that takes place between two people who were willing to fight,” said Nurse, hours before learning his suspension was upheld. “I didn’t go in there and jump him by any means. His gloves were off first.”
The two suspensions continue what has been a heated and intense matchup. The Knights’ 148 penalty minutes through four games are a team record for a playoff series. Their 70 penalty minutes in Game 2 and their 64 in Game 4 are the second- and third-highest totals in franchise history.
Edmonton has 121 penalty minutes, a record for a Knights’ opponent. The Oilers have made it a point to play physical when they can. Stone’s surgically repaired back has been a frequent target, including on a first-period cross-check by right wing Kailer Yamamoto on Wednesday that went uncalled.
Whether the two absences calm things in Game 5 remains to be seen. The pressure will likely only increase as the series gets closer to its conclusion.
“Two good teams going at it,” Knights center Nicolas Roy said. “It’s a best-of-three series (now), so it’s going to be important to be physical. It’s going to be more physical as the game goes on.”
Who: Golden Knights vs. Oilers
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: T-Mobile Arena
Radio: KKGK (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Oilers -135; total 7
Game 1 — Golden Knights 6, Oilers 4
Game 2 — Oilers 5, Golden Knights 1
Game 3 — Golden Knights 5, Oilers 1
Game 4 — Oilers 4, Golden Knights 1
Game 5 — 7 p.m. Friday, T-Mobile Arena (TNT)
Game 6 — TBD Sunday, Rogers Place (TBA)
Game 7* — TBD Tuesday, T-Mobile Arena (TNT)
* If necessary
All games on radio at KKGK (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)