WASHINGTON (AP) — Evgeni Malkin will not have a disciplinary hearing for his shoulder to the head of T.J. Oshie during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-1 loss at the Washington Capitals.
Two people with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press that Malkin would not face a hearing with the NHL department of player safety and therefore won’t be suspended. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the league does not announce the lack of a hearing.
With Pittsburgh on the power play early in the third period, Malkin passed the puck and lifted his right shoulder into Oshie’s head and kept skating. The officials conferred before deciding to give Malkin a five-minute major penalty for an illegal check to the head and eject him from Wednesday night’s game.
Oshie, who returned and scored the game-winner with 1:14 left, was not mad at Malkin for what he perceived to be an accident.
”He maybe thought I was coming to hit him and so he threw the reverse shoulder out there, which I try to do that all the time,” Oshie said. ”I just wasn’t expecting it being on the PK.”
League officials agreed with Oshie’s assumption that Malkin was bracing for contact, not trying to deliver a vicious headshot. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said after the game he was not concerned about the star Russian center facing further discipline, though Washington’s Todd Reirden left open the possibility.
”That’s definitely a blow to the head,” Reirden said. ”Those are things we’re trying to remove from the game. … We’re just really fortunate that it wasn’t something that was more serious and he was able to come back.”
Malkin, the Penguins’ leading scorer, will be eligible to play Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. Pittsburgh has lost five in a row and has just one point during that stretch.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 41 of the 42 shots he faced for his first win since Oct. 22. He got some help from the post on almost a half-dozen occasions, but Holtby also turned in his best performance of the season.
”I felt comfortable as the game moved on,” Holtby said. ”I got some breaks, too, early on. The posts obviously was a break we weren’t getting in the past.”
Holtby kept the Capitals in the game, and Oshie provided the heroics. He left the game early in the first period after taking a stick to the face from Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta and needed two stitches to close a cut next to his left eye.
Oshie returned for the second period but had to leave again after the hit from Malkin. He returned for the second time with about five minutes remaining.
”My face is a little messed up, but I’m feeling pretty good now,” Oshie said. ”He caught me there, and it is what it is. I passed my concussion test, went out and won the game.”
Pittsburgh outshot Washington 42-22 and got 20 saves from Casey DeSmith in his first career start against the Capitals. He was powerless to stop Oshie’s goal after a pass from John Carlson gave him a wide-open net.
Late in a sloppy game full of turnovers and whiffs on the puck, Oshie just wanted to make sure he didn’t shoot so high he missed the net. After missing most of the first and third periods, Oshie made the most of his only shot in 13:51 of ice time.
”I barely saw him on the bench there,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. ”He came back right in time. That’s what big players do. They come back, they score the game-winner.”
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno