The NHL Department of Player Safety has handed down its decision on a Toronto Maple Leafs forward. Michael Bunting has been suspended for three games on Tuesday. This suspension stems from him elbowing Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Erik Cernak.
Michael Bunting gets a three-game suspension for his illegal check to the head on Erik Černák.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) April 19, 2023
Michael Bunting Suspended
The incident occurred with 4:20 left in the second period when Bunting hit Cernak in the head. This took place in front of the Lightning goal and Bunting was given a match penalty and ejected. Cernak had to be helped off the ice after falling backward. He did not return to the game and was part of a number of Tampa Bay injuries. Victor Hedman and Mikey Eyssimont both also got banged up. However, the Lightning did get a 7-3 Game 1 win over the Leafs.
Tampa Bay led Toronto 4-2 at the time of the incident and went on to score two goals on the ensuing power play. This silly penalty by Bunting pretty much put the game out of reach and allowed the Lightning to rout the Leafs. All of the talk about the Leafs blowing another first-round series has come roaring back. However, it’s still only one game of a possible seven.
Bunting, a Scarborough, Ontario native, netted 23 goals and 26 assists in 82 games for Toronto this season. Cernak was fourth in ice time among Lightning defenceman this season, averaging 19:14 a game.
What Michael Bunting Being Suspended Means
Toronto may call upon new college signing Matthew Knies to draw into the lineup. However, no formal lineup decision has been made. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher has a lot of raw talent, but there’s plenty of pressure coming into the post-season. There are plenty of good forwards on Toronto. However, losing Bunting is still a blow.
Tampa Bay will have some injuries to deal with as Cernak, Hedman and Eyssimont are all uncertain. The Lightning only had 10 bench players at the end of the game. There could be some black aces or call-ups from AHL Syracuse that draw into the lineup. Tampa Bay may have the series lead, but could have a whole new lineup for Game 2.
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