Bruins’ Nick Ritchie crushes Yanni Gourde with late hit; suspension coming?

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Boston Bruins forward Nick Ritchie took a careless and reckless penalty midway through the second period of Saturday’s game when he crushed Tampa Bay Lightning forward Yanni Gourde with an extremely late hit from behind.

You can see the hit in the video above. The Lightning won Game 4 by a 3-1 margin to take a 3-1 series lead.

Gourde remained down on the ice for several moments before slowly making his way to the locker room. He eventually returned to the Lightning bench early in the third period.

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Ritchie was assessed a five-minute major for boarding, but was not ejected from the game. You can bet that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is going to be reviewing that play (and probably already is) for potential supplemental discipline. And it’s hard to argue that there should not be.

Not only is that a dangerous hit into the boards on an unsuspecting player, but there was no need for Ritchie to even deliver a hit of any kind in this situation. This was not a case of a player finishing a check, or following through on a hit that was initiated when their opponent still had possession of the puck. By the time Ritchie made the decision to initiate the hit and make contact with Gourde, the puck had already been long cleared out of the zone. It’s boarding and interference all rolled into one nasty hit.

Adding to the mess for Boston was the fact it was already trailing 2-0 on the scoreboard at that point. Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman scored on the ensuing power play thanks to a fluke bounce that fooled Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak.

After the game Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy tried to back his player by saying he was just trying to finish his check and that it was shoulder-to-shoulder, while also pointing out the size difference between the two players (Ritchie is listed at 6-2, 230 while Gourde is listed at 5-9, 175).

He also said of Gourde: “Good player, clever player. Got them on the power play for five minutes. Finished the game with no problem.”

Ritchie was penalized for roughing earlier in the game when he came to the defense of teammate Karson Kuhlman who was dangerously hit into the boards by Cedric Paquette. Paquette was not penalized for that play.

In the third period, Ritchie fought Tampa Bay’s Barclay Goodrow.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 4 Boston Bruins (TBL leads series 3-1)

Series preview
Game 1:
 Bruins 3, Lightning 2 (recap)
Game 2: Lightning 4, Bruins 3 (OT) (recap)
Game 3: Lightning 7, Bruins 1 (recap)
Game 4: Lightning 3, Bruins 1 (recap)
Game 5: Monday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
*Game 6: Wednesday, Sept. 2 – TBD
*Game 7: Thursday, Sept. 3 – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.