Johan Larsson didn't mean to hit Vincent Trocheck in the face with his stick. The NHL Department of Player Safety doesn't care. It just knows that he did.
As a result, the Buffalo Sabres center will serve a two-game suspension.
The league's disciplinary arm announced the penalty Friday after a hearing with Larsson. The center earned a five-minute cross-checking major and a match penalty for intent to injure after hitting Florida's Trocheck late in Thursday's game.
"It is important to note that we understand Larsson's argument that he was not aiming for Trocheck's head, and we acknowledge the stick did ride up Trocheck's shoulder pad before making contact with Trocheck's head," the Department of Player Safety said in a video announcing the suspension.
"However, this is not a case in which a stick rides up unintentionally while a player is attempting to make an otherwise legal play such as establishing body position or while making a play on the puck. This is not a hockey play."
The league also took into account the physical nature of Thursday's contest, which featured 66 penalty minutes in the final 2:01 of play.
Larsson's cross-check was actually the result of an altercation between Trocheck and Buffalo's Jake McCabe. The Sabres defenseman hit Trocheck along the boards, and the duo pushed, shoved and trash-talked their way to the Panthers' blue line.
"Seeing the confrontation, Larsson skates over to Trocheck, raises his stick and delivers a sharp blow that hits Trocheck in the face," the Department of Player Safety said. "Late in the third period of a physical game, Larsson approaches Trocheck for the sole purpose of continuing Trocheck's altercation with McCabe. He raises his stick and delivers a blow aimed at Trocheck's upper body, which rides up and makes solid contact with Trocheck's face.
"Players are responsible for their stick at all times, and when a player attempts to intentionally use his stick to deliver a blow to an opponent, he cannot necessarily be excused of all responsibility when the blow lands in an unintended place."
Larsson will miss Saturday's home game against the St. Louis Blues and Tuesday's visit by the Anaheim Ducks.
"It's a heat-of-the-battle moment where emotions are running high," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "It's unfortunate."
Story topics: Johan Larsson