The Edmonton Oilers will be without one of their top players for Game 5 of their second-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights, as defenceman Darnell Nurse's automatic one-game suspension for instigating a fight during the final five minutes of Wednesday's Game 4 was upheld by the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Thursday.
Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft also received a $10,000 fine.
Darnell Nurse and Nic Hague finally go at it. 😳🥊 pic.twitter.com/efkjrr6r07
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 11, 2023
The league had the opportunity to overturn the decision after review, but opted to stick with the punishment.
According to Daily Faceoff insider Frank Seravalli, Golden Knights captain Mark Stone said after the game that Hague asked for the fight, which makes the news sting even worse for Oilers fans. Nurse himself shared that he felt Hague was more than willing to throw down based on his behaviour throughout the game.
"For 40 minutes, he was out there challenging and trying to provoke a fight," Nurse said. "For me, you play 24 minutes a game and you don’t want to take yourself out at the wrong time.
"With 30 seconds left in a 4-1 game, to do it a fair way, to have (a) fair fight where both people want to fight and are willing to engage, I think that is what took place last night."
Woodcroft also shared his opinion, agreeing that Hague was the one who actually started the extracurriculars.
“I saw Darnell wrap somebody up, two guys bear hugging each other, and I saw their player with his gloves off first,” Woodcroft told reporters after the game. “I saw their player throw eight punches, so to me, that’s two willing combatants. It’s not like somebody was turtled up in a ball. I saw two willing combatants.
"As I said, I believe it started with [Hague], he had his gloves off first and threw eight punches.”
With Nurse's suspension official, the attention now fully shifts to Vegas defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, who is having a hearing Thursday to determine appropriate punishment for his late-game slash on Edmonton star Leon Draisaitl.
The Oilers and Golden Knights are tied 2-2 in their best-of-seven series, with a pivotal Game 5 set for Friday in Las Vegas.