Joe Thornton took an ill-timed penalty during the second period of the Sharks 6-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday night.
The Sharks center was called for an illegal check to the head after hitting Golden Knights forward Thomas Nosek with just over three minutes remaining in the middle frame of Game 3.
Thornton appeared to clip Noseks head with his left arm after he had passed the puck, and Nosek returned to the Vegas bench. Still, its possible Thornton will receive a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety.
“Theyll look at it for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “Theres no doubt. Definitely a high hit to the head. Theyll look at it, and well see what happens.”
Thornton defended the hit after the game, and said he believed the contact was largely incidental.
“I honestly thought I barely touched him,” Thornton told reporters in Las Vegas. “He came right back. It was just one of those plays. It is what it is. I think my son hits me like that six times a day. It was just a weird position [Nosek] put himself in, thats all.”
Assuming Thornton is fined or suspended, it would be the second incident with Vegas in which he received supplemental discipline. In late March, he was fined $2,500 for high-sticking Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves.
It wouldnt be the first time a Sharks player faced discipline for a hit to the head this season, either. Back in December, Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson was suspended two games for a hit to the head of Los Angeles Kings forward Austin Wagner. Unlike Wagner, Nosek did return to the game after Thorntons hit Sunday. He took his first shift 58 seconds into the third period.
Sharks forward Micheal Haley did not return to the game after blocking a shot in the second period. Thus, its conceivable the Sharks, who trail two games to one in the best-of-seven series, could be down two forwards in Game 4 on Tuesday night if Haley cant suit up and Thornton is suspended by the league.
Nosek attempted to corral a loose puck in his own end with his head down and didnt see Thornton coming. A split-second after Nosek got rid of the puck, Thornton skated by and delivered a crushing shot to Noseks head, earning a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head.
Thornton hits Nosek in the head. Not good at all. Two minute penalty assessed to Jumbo #SJSharks #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/1USaZPOC6u
Although Nosek returned to the game without further incident, its possible the NHL Department of Player Safety will take an extended look at Thorntons hit, especially given the tenor of the playoffs to date.
Vegas defeated San Jose in the second round of the 2017-18 playoffs, before losing to the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Finals during their impressive inaugural season. Its only been two years, but even this level of familiarity seems to breed contempt.