Vegas' Reaves suspended 2 games by NHL for hit vs. Avalanche

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Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek (14) defends against Vegas Golden Knights right wing Ryan Reaves (75) during the second period of Game 1 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

DENVER – Vegas forward Ryan Reaves was suspended two games by the NHL on Monday for his roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct on Colorado's Ryan Graves during the Golden Knights' 7-1 loss in Game 1 of their second-round series Sunday.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced earlier in the day on social media it was holding a hearing with Reaves, who drew a match penalty for attempting to injure an opponent — Graves — at 8:04 of the third period in a skirmish-filled game.

In a video posted on the league's site explaining the decision, the NHL said both the officials and Reaves acknowledged “a chunk of Graves' hair was pulled out by Reaves” during the scrum. The league also noted Reaves' actions — the roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct — were “retaliation” for an earlier hit by Graves on Mattias Janmark.

“Reaves and the Golden Knights acknowledged that, angered by the earlier hit, he takes this opportunity to send a message to Graves as payback,” the league said in the video. “And while some of the actions taken by Reaves could be sufficiently penalized by the on-ice officials, the totality of Reaves' actions combined with the game situation and the retribution involved in the play necessitates supplemental discipline.”

The NHL's Department of Player Safety cited the fact it was roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct and considered Reaves' history — he was fined twice and suspended twice previously.

Before the discipline was announced, Vegas coach Pete DeBoer stuck up for Reaves, who avoided punishment for a hit from behind in a Game 7 win over Minnesota on Friday that sent Ryan Suter's face into the goal post.

“For me, Ryan is one of the cleanest tough guys I’ve seen in the league in my 12, 13 years," DeBoer said of Reaves as his team tries to regroup for Game 2 on Wednesday. “He’s consistently a clean, physical player.”

The Avalanche weren't thrilled with the play on Graves, who was thrown to the ice as his helmet rolled away. Graves stayed down as trainers tended to him with skirmishes going on all around.