Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele (55), shown Feb. 23, 2018, delivered a hard hit to Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans during Wednesday night's playoff game. The hit caused Evans to leave the ice on a stretcher. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
June 3 (UPI) -- The NHL Department of Player Safety handed Winnipeg Jets star forward Mark Scheifele a four-game suspension for his illegal hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans at the end of Game 1 on Wednesday night.
The league announced the four-game ban Thursday night, calling Scheifele's charge into Evans a "high, predatory hit" delivered with "excessive momentum gained from traveling a considerable distance." The massive collision resulted in Evans suffering a concussion.
With under a minute left in the game and the Canadiens leading by a goal, Evans scored an empty-netter on a wrap-around attempt. While doing so, Scheifele lowered his right arm and launched himself into Evans at full speed.
Evans crumbled to the ice, with the right side of his head hitting first. He was stretchered off the ice about eight minutes later.
Scheifele was given a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct.
The 28-year-old Scheifele argued in his hearing that his speed on the collision was an effort to make a critical defensive play and prevent a game-clinching goal. Earlier Thursday, Jets head coach Paul Maurice echoed that thought.
"You need to do anything you can to stop a goal from being scored," Maurice said. "It was a heavy, heavy hit but it was clean. It's part of the game. I don't even like that phrase.
"Depending on what flag is on the car, you'll have a different opinion on that. But their guy took a hit to make a play. Our guy made a hit."
The league, however, ruled that Scheifele made no effort to make a defensive play on the empty-net goal, saying he took his hand off his stick and turned his shoulder into Evans.
"His intention was to deliver a hard, violent check to an opponent with the outcome of both the play and the game already having been decided," the league said in a video explaining the ruling.
Scheifele won't be allowed to return to the second-round playoff series until at least Game 6, if the series lasts that long. The Canadiens currently hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Friday night.