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Islanders' Mathew Barzal avoids suspension for hit on Lightning's Jan Rutta

New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal received a $5,000 fine for his cross-check on Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta in Game 5 of the semifinals series. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal received a $5,000 fine for his cross-check on Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta in Game 5 of the semifinals series. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

June 22 (UPI) -- New York Islanders star forward Mathew Barzal dodged a suspension for his illegal hit on Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta and will be available for Game 6 of the NHL semifinals series.

Barzal, who has six goals and 12 points this postseason, received a $5,000 fine Tuesday -- the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement -- for a cross-checking penalty on Rutta in Monday night's Game 5.

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The NHL, however, declined to suspend Barzal for the infraction, meaning the Islanders will have the services of one of their top players as they attempt to stay alive in the series after a humiliating 8-0 loss.

Barzal's illegal check came in the final moments of the second period. It was one of multiple scuffles in Monday's contest, as tempers boiled over while Tampa Bay cruised to a 3-2 series lead in the semifinals.

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The incident started when Rutta and Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau battled in front of the Lightning's net, with Rutta delivering a series of cross-checks. As Rutta glided toward the bench, Barzal went after him and delivered a cross-check to his shoulder. Barzal then delivered another that appeared to strike Rutta in the face.

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Rutta fell to the ice with Barzal on top of him as the buzzer sounded to conclude the second period. Officials gave Barzal a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said he was disappointed in Barzal's decision to go after Rutta, who didn't return for the third period.

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"It wasn't going well, and he dug it a little deeper for the guys," Trotz said after the game. "The biggest concern you have as a coach is losing another guy, because they're blocking shots and things like that. So, I am disappointed in his decision here."

Game 6 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Wednesday night at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New York.

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