Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher was handed a 5-game suspension by the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday for an illegal check to the head of New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech.
The incident occurred during Thursday’s game when Gallagher elbowed Pelech in the head as he was carrying the puck through the neutral zone.
Pelech crumbled to the ice and did not return. Gallagher received a match penalty and the Islanders scored twice on the ensuing power play to tie the game before Montreal held on for a 4-3 win.
Check out Gallagher’s elbow on Pelech below:
This is Gallagher’s first career suspension. The 12-year veteran had only been fined once previously in his 723 NHL games.
The Department of Player Safety noted that while Gallagher is not considered a repeat offender, the illegal check met both criteria for suspension – the main point of contact was the head and the head contact was avoidable.
The suspension will cost Gallagher $169,270 in forfeited salary. He will miss games against Pittsburgh, Washington, Dallas, St. Louis, and Anaheim before being eligible to return on February 15th against the Rangers.
The timing is unfortunate for the Canadiens as they try to build momentum heading into the All-Star break. Montreal currently sits five points out of a playoff spot after winning two of their last three games.
Gallagher is an emotional leader for the team, providing grit and offense from the second line. The Canadiens will need to find a way to fill that void during his absence.
While five games matches the longest suspension this season, some around the league felt it was too lenient given the nature of the illegal check. Others argued Gallagher’s clean record should have reduced the suspension to just 2-3 games.
The debate will surely continue about what is appropriate supplemental discipline in today’s NHL.