The Buffalo Sabres' late-season playoff push was dealt a major blow after defenseman Tyler Myers was suspended three games for an illegal hit on Montreal's Scott Gomez, the National Hockey League (NHL) said on Tuesday.
Myers, one of Buffalo's top-scoring defensemen, received a two-minute penalty for the hit that sent Gomez crashing into the boards in the third period of a 3-2 win on Monday that put the Sabres within two points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The NHL said Myers, who scored the overtime winner, hit the Montreal forward from behind and forced him to "crash violently" into the boards.
"The onus therefore is upon Myers to avoid this hit completely or at the very least minimize it," NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said in a video on the league's website.
"He does neither. Rather he drives into a defenseless player with force."
Myers, who will miss Wednesday's home against the Colorado Avalanche, is second among Buffalo defenseman with 21 points.
A late-season charge has lifted the Sabres into the playoff picture just weeks after they had occupied last place in the 15-team Eastern Conference. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)