- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

The four officials directly involved may have missed the incident but the NHL didn't, and it reacted swiftly yesterday against Toronto Maple Leafs forward Darcy Tucker.
Tucker was suspended for two games by the league yesterday as a result of his hit on Washington Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar at 10:51 of the third period Thursday night in Air Canada Centre. Tucker's hearing lasted less than 10 minutes.
Tucker raced across the rink and vaulted into the air before leveling the defenseman with an elbow to the head. There could have been at least three calls on the play: charging, elbowing or intent to injure, or a combination of two of them. But referees Dave Jackson and Kevin Maguire called nothing, which incited the Washington bench to a near-riot condition when the two officials tried to defend their inaction.
The most puzzling aspect of the incident was that Gonchar was carrying the puck at the time he was hit. If the officials weren't watching the puck carrier, what were they watching?
Gonchar was knocked unconscious by the blow and lay on the ice for at least five minutes while Caps trainer Greg Smith attempted to revive him. He was finally assisted to the dressing room and did not return.
"He seems to be doing fine," general manager George McPhee said yesterday. "He said he feels fine, but we won't know until [today] when he practices and gets his blood pressure going. Until then, I don't know anything more; nobody knows how these things turn out."
Gonchar seemingly tolerated the flight from Toronto to Columbus, Ohio, where the Caps play tonight. He was said to be out with teammates last night at a movie.
"The league served justice," coach Ron Wilson said. "I don't care about Darcy Tucker, I care about Sergei Gonchar, and I hope he's able to play [today]."
Wilson and McPhee minced no words after the game in describing what they said was an intolerable and embarrassing situation and asked for a hearing to assess responsibility if the on-ice officials refused to do anything.
"I'm surprised it's going to a hearing at all," said Toronto coach Pat Quinn before Tucker went before league officials. It was the forward's second suspension; he was suspended for two games in 1999 for spearing.
"We didn't go on the ice [yesterday], and until he actually skates we won't know if he can play," Wilson said of Gonchar, the top-scoring defenseman in the league with 23 goals and 55 points. "If he skates and feels good, then he'll play. He wants to play but you also have to respect the doctor's and everybody's opinions in regard to a knock to the head after you've had a history of concussions.
"If we had been playing [yesterday], probably he wouldn't have played, so we have the benefit of at least one day off here on this trip. Gonch is up now and he was going to the movies with friends. But you never know about these things until the guy gets on the ice."
Washington was flat in the first period against the Maple Leafs and trailed 2-0 after the opening 20 minutes. The Caps got a goal from Jaromir Jagr in the second period to narrow the gap and turned the heat up in the third, Jagr scoring again and assisting on goals by Frantisek Kucera (his first in 84 games) and the game-winner by Dainius Zubrus.
It was Jagr's first four-point night as a Cap and moved the defending NHL scoring champion into fourth place among the league leaders, although he remains 11 points behind Calgary's Jerome Iginla.


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