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2011 NHL Playoffs: Steve Downie And Chris Kunitz Face NHL Discipline Hearings For Game 3 Hits

After Monday night's Game 3, word got out from Bob McKenzie of Canadian sports network TSN that the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steve Downie and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz had been contacted about disciplinary hearings from the league office after both laid dangerous hits on opposing players.

Downie's hit happened in the first period, right before the Penguins' first goal. As Pittsburgh defenseman Ben Lovejoy went behind his own net to play the puck, Downie came rushing in and landed a high, hard hit, leaving his skates in the process. Lovejoy was not injured on the play. A penalty was signaled by the referee, but it was canceled when the Penguins scored on their ensuing rush up the ice.

Kunitz's hit was an elbow to the head of Tampa Bay forward Simon Gagne in the third period. As Gagne was trying to get to a loose puck in the slot, Kunitz caught him with a blindside elbow, precisely the kind of hit the NHL is trying to eliminate from the game. Gagne was OK, Kunitz was given a two-minute minor for elbowing, and the Lightning scored on the subsequent power play.

(Travis Hughes at the SB Nation mother ship has video of both incidents, plus a nasty GIF of the Kunitz elbow that may not be for the faint of heart.)

While the Lightning are used to playing without Downie in the event of a suspension, it could cause major problems for the already shorthanded Penguins to lose Kunitz, one of their only offensive weapons. Then again, this is the NHL, well-known for its ham-fisted, almost random disciplinary action. Put it this way -- only the NHL could inspire a Wheel of Justice Web site that delivers disciplinary rulings with frightening accuracy. (Now with a new "Chris Pronger Mode" for the playoffs that drastically reduces sanctions!)

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.