April 16 (UPI) -- San Jose star center Joe Thornton was suspended for Game 4 of the Sharks' first-round playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The NHL Department of Player Safety handed down the one-game ban Monday night for Thornton's illegal check to the head of Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek in Game 3.
Nosek skated toward the back of the Golden Knights' net while playing the puck in his defensive zone. Thornton skated to Nosek and delivered a crushing blow in the second period of Vegas' 6-3 win Saturday. The NHL argued that Thornton could have aimed for Nosek's shoulder instead of his head during the check.
Thornton was assessed a minor penalty for the hit. His last suspension came in the 2010-11 season.
The veteran center has a goal and two assists in the Sharks' first three Stanley Cup playoff games. He is skating on the Sharks' third line. Thornton, 39, recorded 16 goals and 35 assists in 73 regular-season contests.
The Golden Knights hold a 2-1 series lead headed into Tuesday night's Game 4 at T-Mobile Arena.