Columbus Blue Jackets Erik Gudbranson beats up Florida Panthers Nick Cousins after controversial hit
(Screenshot/ Bally Sports Ohio)

A controversial hit sparked chaos in the Blue Jackets-Panthers matchup on Sunday afternoon. Just 24 seconds into the third period, Panthers forward Nick Cousins delivered a crushing blow on Blue Jackets defenseman Erik Gudbranson, slamming him head-first into the boards.

The hit initially earned Cousins a major penalty, but after review it was downgraded to a minor for boarding. That decision enraged Gudbranson, who immediately accosted Cousins, throwing him to the ice and raining down punches while Cousins covered up.


The violent outburst earned Gudbranson 27 penalty minutes – a fighting major, instigating minor, misconduct and game misconduct. It also earned him a hearing with NHL Player Safety, with a suspension expected to follow.

Gudbranson’s retaliation reignited discussions about player safety and the need for stricter enforcement around dangerous hits. Fans and analysts questioned the decision to reduce Cousins’ penalty given the violence and potential for injury on the play.

“Gudbranson is an emotional, heart-and-soul guy. He could’ve been seriously hurt on that play,” said Blue Jackets coach Pascal Vincent. “We felt it warranted a major penalty. I think his frustration stems from that.”

While Gudbranson’s retaliation is understandable given the blow he absorbed, his actions violated league rules. He now faces a disciplinary hearing that could result in suspension

The chaotic scene reignited concerns around dangerous hits and questions about the consistency of officiating on those plays. It also leaves Gudbranson’s status unclear moving forward during a critical stretch for the Blue Jackets.

Fans and analysts debated whether Cousins deserved supplemental discipline for his questionable hit. But the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced no sanctions against him as of Sunday evening.