In what has already become somewhat of a controversial decision, the NHL has chosen not to suspend Scott Walker of the Carolina Hurricanes for his hit on the Boston Bruins' Aaron Ward in Sunday's Game Five.
League rules normally mandate a suspension under these circumstances, but Walker, a veteran winger, had his sentence reduced to a $2,500 fine.
The hit, which was described as a "sucker punch" by Bruins coach Claude Julien, may have broken Ward's orbital bone.
Walker later said in a team-released statement that "it was my understanding that I was involved in an altercation."
Game Five was plagued by both injuries and penalties. Twenty-nine penalties were accounted for in the match, in which both Carolina's Erik Cole and Boston's Zdeno Chara were sent to the locker room with injuries. Both returned to play later in the game.
In the closing minutes, with the Bruins ahead 4-0, there was a scrum in front of Boston's goal involving Ward and Hurricanes center Matt Cullen. Both Cullen and Ward shoved each other, at which point Walker entered.
Walker pushed Ward, who returned the favor, and Walker dropped his right glove. Ward dropped his left glove while retaining his stick and glove in his right hand. Walker then punched Ward with a right hook.
Walker was immediately assessed with an instigator minor, a fighting major, and a game misconduct.
The series, which is 3-2 in favor of Carolina, has been marked with violence and penalties.