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Mar 5, 2020; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo (25) is checked by Florida Panthers right wing Evgenii Dadonov (63) into the boards during the second period at BB&T Center. (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

Whether or not the Panthers’ Evgenii Dadonov truly intended to knock Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo on his back and out of action with an elbow to the face really has nothing to do with the fact that the NHL bungled this call. Badly, too.

Now, if you’re asking me, Dadonov’s elbow was your classic accidentally-on-purpose elbow. He peeked over his shoulder (most likely looking for support from his forwards as he was about to engage in a one-on-one battle in the corner), saw Carlo, and then tossed an elbow back while also attempting to play the puck. It was a veteran move. But it was also one most players and people close to the game will see right through, especially when we’re talking about what was a heated contest with multiple leg-checks, a fight, and with Dadonov already involved in what could have been a heated incident with Ondrej Kase.

But when it came to the penalty itself, a lengthy review from the officials allowed them to… reverse the correct call.

According to Rule 45.3 of the NHL rulebook, any penalized elbow that results in an injury to either the face or head “must” come with a five-minute major for the offender. That, of course, was the original call on the ice. But that lengthy review threw that “must” out the window, for whatever reason, and it was reduced to a two-minute minor.

The Bruins scored seconds into that power-play attempt and eventually won the game, but they never got Carlo back on the ice after he made his way down the tunnel with the help of the B’s trainers. Speaking with reporters after the game, Bruce Cassidy offered that they didn’t have an exact read on Carlo’s situation, but noted that they were hoping it wasn’t concussion-related.

That doomsday outcome for this elbow to Carlo’s face — given Carlo’s importance to Boston defense, his injury history (especially around postseason time), his slight concussion history, and with the Bruins about a month away from the start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs — would almost outweigh cashing in with the power-play goal and the win as a whole.

And that’s another problem with the league’s handling of this elbow.

By reducing this from a five-minute major to a two-minute minor, the league opened the door for a suspended for Dadonov. Now, you could argue that he should face a suspension regardless of the five-turned-two, but typically, when the on-ice call is muffed, the make-up comes by way of supplemental discipline. In most cases, you’d look at a five-and-game and go, “OK, yeah, that makes sense. Punishment enough.” Florida’s status in the standings would help in this case. But again, that miss leaves the team on the receiving end of the ‘bow asking and looking for more. Sometimes they even expect it.

But that won’t come Carlo and the B’s way, as the NHL Department of Player Safety announced that there would be no further punishment for Dadonov. This is the rare instance of an obvious and injurious infraction being less of an issue over time.

So, to recap: The Bruins were and are down an important defenseman, who was lost on an injury-inducing elbow (an automatic major), and Dadonov was handed a two-minute minor and allowed to skate with a fine or suspension.

Yikes.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.