Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn has been suspended two games -- coming in the playoffs or regular season -- for cross-checking against Vegas Golden Knights forward Mark Stone, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced Wednesday.
Benn was ejected less than two minutes into the Stars' 4-0 loss at home in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals for cross-checking Stone, the Vegas captain, around the jaw while Stone was flat on the ice.
"It's important to note that Benn is in control of this play at all times and makes the decision to deliver a forceful cross-check to a prone player," the NHL said in its ruling Wednesday afternoon. "This is simply an unnecessary decision by Benn and it is delivered with sufficient intent and force to merit supplemental discipline."
Sources told ESPN that the NHL landed on a two-game suspension for a few reasons. As the match penalty Benn was given indicated, they believed there was intent to injure on what was a "dangerous" play to an opponent in a prone position.
Why wasn't this suspension more in line with the one-game ban handed to Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo for his intentional slash on the arm of Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl in Game 4 of their second-round series? The answer is location: The NHL felt that Benn targeting Stone's neck or head was worse than an arm.
The NHL has typically handed out a one-game suspension for cross-checks during the course of play -- like Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen in 2020 and Los Angeles Kings forward Blake Lizotte this season. But dropping a stick down on a vulnerable player required something more substantial for Benn.
The Stars trail 3-0 in the series and will be without Benn for Thursday's elimination game in Dallas. Benn will miss the team's first regular-season game in 2023-24 if the Stars are eliminated in Game 4.
Earlier Wednesday, Benn, when speaking to reporters, described it as a "heat of the moment" play that led to the match penalty Tuesday night. He said he needed to be more responsible with his body and stick.
"That was my first shift of a game on home ice, when you're pretty jacked up and you're down 1-0. So you want to try and get your game going. Emotions are high and it's just an unfortunate play," Benn said. "I put my team in a tough situation, so it's pretty unfortunate."
"It didn't feel good," Stone told reporters Wednesday. "I think I was more a little bit surprised. It was early in the game, it was my first shift of the game. I didn't expect to get stomped on like that. But I could hear the ref making sure I was all right and I felt okay to get up. The refs made sure the right call was made."
When asked if he would change anything on the play, Benn said he believed that he fell on Stone.
"Obviously, didn't want to take a five-minute penalty, but when the game happens fast, emotions are high. Obviously I would've liked to not fall on him and I guess use my stick as the landing point," he said.
The NHL also fined Stars forward Max Domi $5,000 on Wednesday for a slashing penalty against Stone at 18:09 of the third period.
Domi wasn't penalized on that play but he was involved in an earlier mess at the end of the second period when he hit Vegas defenseman Nicolas Hague from behind, then threw a couple of punches at Hague. Domi was assessed cross-checking and roughing minors plus a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
In addition to their captain, the Stars will also potentially be without forward Evgenii Dadonov for Game 4, as he is doubtful with an injury.
Information from Reuters was included in this report.