Leafs Forward Michael Bunting Hit Hard By NHL For Headshot

The NHL has taken an extremely harsh stance with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting for his ill-advised headshot to Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak. Bunting has been slapped with a 3-game suspension.

Bunting leveled Cernak with an elbow to the head, and will now pay the price by being forced to miss Games 2, 3 and 4 of the Leafs' first-round series with the Bolts. Tampa leads 1-0 after their 7-3 Game 1 victory. 

The original call on the play was interference, but an official's review increased Bunting's sentence to a five-minute major, which led to more damage being done by the Lightning on the power play on the way to their decisive win.

NHL Player Safety cited an illegal "avoidable" contact to the head, which takes all the force of the check, as well as interference on the play, and Cernak’s head injury, in handing out its sentence.

It's a tough break for the Leafs, but likely opens the door for the Matthew Knies playoff era in Toronto, as the rookie was seen practicing with the regulars Wednesday morning in anticipation of getting into the lineup for Game Two Thursday. 

Photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports