If the New York Rangers are going to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, they're going to do it without defenseman John Moore.
The 23-year-old was ejected from Tuesday's Game 5 loss after delivering a blindsided, open-ice hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Dale Weise. After meeting with the NHL Wednesday, he was slapped with a two-game suspension as further punishment, per TSN's Bob McKenzie:
NYR John Moore suspended two games.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 28, 2014
The Department of Player Safety announced the news in a video breaking down the incident, via NHL.com:
As the video explains, the timing of Moore's hit was legal, but the fact that it was to the head of Weise was not. Moore's clean history was also considered when determining the length of the suspension.
A noticeably woozy Weise went to the locker room, but he was able to return to the bench for the Habs' 7-4 win to extend the series.
As Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski argued, there was really no defending Moore after this one:
John Moore with the stupidest hit of the 2014 playoffs, folks.— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) May 28, 2014
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault disagreed, telling reporters after the game, via USA Today's Mike Brehm, that the referees made a mistake with the player's ejection:
"The player didn't see him coming, obviously, but the guy was admiring his pass a little bit at the same time," he said of Weise. "Unfortunately, it was a hit and because of the force of the hit, the head seemed to snap back a little bit.
"But as far as what I know about league standards and from what I heard from the Prust hit where the dynamics of the hit changed because Stepan was hurt, I don't see that at this time right now."
Was a 2-game suspension the right decision by the league?
Moreover, this is consistent with the suspension of Montreal forward Brandon Prust, who delivered a near identical hit on Derek Stepan in Game 3, so there are no real surprises here.
In 74 games during the regular season, Moore tallied 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) and a solid plus/minus of plus-seven.
With the Rangers needing just one win in the next two games to advance to the Cup, there's a good chance he'll return again this season. However, he'll need to be smarter on the ice moving forward.
While he's sidelined, New York will turn to Raphael Diaz to join the team's third defensive pairing with Kevin Klein.