During a routine line change less than a minute into the third period of the Washington Capitals' 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers Wednesday, Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer collided with Rangers center Derek Stepan in the neutral zone.
As Brouwer skated towards the bench, Stepan was backpedaling on defense, unaware that Brouwer was nearby. Brouwer attempted to dodge Stepan by jumping over his stick, but inadvertantly made contact with Stepan's head. Play was halted as New York's training staff tended to Stepan, who temporarily left the ice and headed back to the dressing room to undergo mandatory concussion protocol. He ultimately returned to the game seemingly no worse for wear.
“Yeah, it’s part of the game, it happens,” Stepan said. “I feel fine, so that’s the good thing. Obviously I never saw him coming. I can’t sit here and say if he did one thing or another. It happens, it’s part of the game. He said something to me on the ice that he didn’t see me. That’s part of it, whatever.
"I had my back turned, we run into each other. I’m going to with that for now until I look at it and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, however, was not as understanding. No penalty was called on the play as officials ruled that it was accidental contact.
"I just looked at the replay there and if he couldn’t see him there I don’t know what else he was looking at,” Vigneault said. “Obviously the principle point of contact was the head. So we’ll see.”
Brouwer was upfront when asked to share his side after the game.
“I was at the end of my shift," Brouwer explained. [Capitals defenseman Mike] Green had the puck and was pulling it out of our zone. I was going for a change and there was a little incidental contact in the neutral zone. I’m glad to see that he came back and wasn’t seriously hurt after it. Those can be tough plays and I pride myself on being an honest player and tried to get out of the way without causing as much damage as possible.”
There does not seem to be any malicious intent on Brouwer's part -- he kept his arm down, not raising his elbow to Stepan's head -- but the NHL has cracked down on hits to the head in an effort to curb concussions. The 28-year-old has never been suspended or fined during his career, but an eye should be kept out for any potential supplemental discipline.
If Brouwer is indeed reprimanded, it would be the second time in as many games that the Capitals have been on the receiving end of league-administered punishment. Tuesday, Capitals left wing Jason Chimera was fined nearly $4,500 by the NHL for boarding Edmonton Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz during Monday's 4-2 win.
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.