The Dallas Stars won’t have their captain when they fight to keep their season alive against the Las Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
The NHL suspended Stars forward Jamie Benn for Thursday night’s win-or-go-home game at the American Airlines Center and for a potential Game 5 after he was ejected early in the first period of Game 3 for cross-checking Vegas captain Mark Stone near his head while Stone was on the ice.
Should the Stars lose Game 4, Benn would be suspended for the 2023-24 season opener.
Benn drew heavy criticism when he left the arena following Tuesday’s game without speaking to the media, but he did hold a media availability to discuss the incident on Wednesday.
“Just an unfortunate play. I think I need to just be more responsible with my body and my stick. I put my team in a tough situation,” Benn said. “Your team’s down 2-0 in a series and 1-0 in a game and you put them on a five-minute penalty kill. You can imagine how that feels.
“It was my first shift of a game on home ice when you’re pretty jacked up and down 1-0. You’re trying to get your team going. Emotions are high. It’s just an unfortunate play.”
When asked if he would have handled the situation differently, Benn attempted to paint an alternative picture of how he saw the play unfold.
“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.
In a video statement released Wednesday to announce Benn’s suspension, the NHL’s player safety department disagreed with Benn’s assertation of the play.
“With Stone on the ice in front of him, Benn puts both hands on his stick, drops to his knees, and drives his stick into the head and neck area of Stone with force. … It’s important to note that Benn is in control of this play at all times, and makes the decision to deliver a forcible cross-check to a prone player. This is simply an unnecessarily, dangerous decision by Benn. And it is delivered with sufficient intent and force to merit supplemental discipline.”
With Benn suspended and Evgenii Dadanov listed as doubtful (lower-body injury), the Stars will be without two-thirds of their third line for Game 4.