Capitals forward Donald Brashear was suspended Monday by the NHL for a total of six games -- five for what the league called a "blind-side hit" on Rangers center Blair Betts -- and will miss Game 7 of the teams' first-round playoff series.
In addition to leveling Betts midway through the first period of Washington's 5-3 victory at New York in Game 6 on Sunday, Brashear made contact with Colton Orr in pregame warmups and was barred from one game for that.
"Brashear delivered a shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior executive VP of hockey operations. "It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury."
Betts has a broken bone in his eye socket and was ruled out of Tuesday night's series-deciding game in Washington. He is New York's top penalty-killing forward.
"Bettsie is a huge part of our team. He brings so many intangibles to our team that are so often looked over, so it's going to be tough. But we will all have to step up and rise to the occasion," Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "Anytime a tough competitor and a teammate goes down, you can use it as motivation."
Brashear is Washington's top enforcer, accumulating more than 40 more penalty minutes than anyone else on the team's roster this season despite missing 19 games. His hit on Betts came after the Rangers forward got rid of the puck at center ice.
Betts remained face-down for several moments and appeared dazed as he was helped to the dressing room.
Brashear's full suspension will be served during this postseason and, if necessary, the 2009-10 regular season. A Capitals spokesman said neither Brashear nor general manager George McPhee would comment on the punishment.
Earlier Monday, before he spoke to NHL headquarters as part of the league's investigation, Brashear talked about the upcoming Game 7, saying: "I sure hope I'm going to be part of it."
Also speaking before Brashear's penalty was announced, Capitals defenseman Mike Green acknowledged what his teammate's absence would mean.
"He obviously has a presence on the ice and makes guys look behind them when he's on the ice," Green said. "We're all going to have to step up our game and be a little bit more physical, because we're going to be missing that key component with him out."
Brashear's suspension is the second of this series. Rangers coach John Tortorella was forced to sit out Game 6 by the NHL after throwing a plastic drinking bottle at fans during New York's loss at Washington in Game 5.