The Washington Times - January 4, 2012, 07:21PM

Rene Bourque said Tuesday night he wasn’t even sure he struck Nicklas Backstrom in the head with his elbow. But after a hearing Wednesday, NHL VP of player safety Brendan Shanahan ruled that not only did Bourque break the rules but he did so in a “reckless” manner that earned him a five-game suspension.

“We believe Bourque’s assertion that this was an instinctive reflex rather than a premeditated intent to injure,” Shanahan said in a video announcing the ban. “However, as all of the parties in the hearing agreed; this reckless elbow to the head is indefensible.”

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Bourque’s right elbow connected with Backstrom’s jaw, earning a minor penalty at the time that Washington captain Alex Ovechkin protested as not enough. Shanahan’s tough punishment on Bourque was a result of the elbow being a “clear violation” of Rule 48, Backstrom having to leave the game later and the Flames forward’s status as a repeat offender.

Bourque will forfeit $203,252.05 in salary.