Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly faces a lengthy suspension for dangerous cross-check
(Photo Credit: @LeafsPr/ Twitter)

Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly is facing a lengthy suspension after delivering a dangerous cross-check to the head of Senators forward Ridly Greig in the final seconds of Saturday’s game.

The incident occurred with just 5.1 seconds left in Ottawa’s 5-3 victory over Toronto. Greig took advantage of an empty net and fired a long-range slapshot from the red line to seal the Senators win.

Rielly took offense to the emphatic style of the goal celebration and charged at Greig, shoving him head-first into the boards with a high cross-check.

Rielly received a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct on the play. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Sunday that Rielly has been offered an in-person hearing for the cross-check. An in-person hearing opens up the possibility of Rielly being suspended for 6 games or more under league rules.

The hearing will take place on Tuesday, February 13th in New York. Rielly will attend along with Maple Leafs GM and NHLPA representatives.

When asked about the incident, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe defended Rielly’s actions as an emotional reaction to the Senators’ showboating. However, Senators coach Jacques Martin called it “not a hockey play” and said Rielly’s hit was unacceptable regardless of how Greig scored the goal.

The Department of Player Safety clearly agreed with Martin’s assessment. Rielly has no history of supplemental discipline in his 11 NHL seasons, but his cross-check was dangerously high and could warrant one of the lengthier suspensions seen this season.

Given the violent nature of the play and the head contact involved, Rielly seems likely to miss at least 5 games. A suspension of that length would be a major blow to a Toronto team battling for playoff positioning down the stretch.

The Leafs will anxiously await the Department of Player Safety’s final decision on discipline for one of their top defensemen and power play quarterbacks.