Greig ‘not sure’ if Rielly meant to cross-check him

Greig ‘not sure’ if Rielly meant to cross-check him

Rielly cross-checks Greig for hammering slap shot into empty net (1:01)

Ridly Greig blasts a slap shot into the empty net as time is expiring, and Morgan Rielly takes exception and cross-checks him. (1:01)

  • ESPN News Services

Feb 14, 2024, 12:58 AM ET

OTTAWA, Ontario — Ridly Greig, speaking for the first time since the Ottawa Senators center was cross-checked to the face by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, summed up the ensuing fallout by saying he “didn’t think it would get this far.”

But three days after the incident, and fresh off Ottawa’s 6-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, Greig held court at his locker stall, taking questions about not only his decision to fire a slap shot into an open net against the Maple Leafs but how he felt the NHL responded.

“I’ve tried to stay offline the past couple of days,” Greig said. “Everyone’s going to have an opinion on it. They’re probably going to love it or hate it. It doesn’t matter to me.”

Earlier in the day, Rielly was suspended five games by the league’s Department of Player Safety for the cross-check. The hit came in the moments following Greig’s short-distance goal with 5.1 seconds remaining in what was a 5-3 Ottawa victory.

“In short, this is not a hockey play. This is an intentional, forceful strike to an opponent’s head, using a stick as a weapon to exact retribution on an opponent well after a goal is scored,” NHL Player Safety said in its ruling on Tuesday.

Greig, who left the decision to “the league,” agreed with a reporter in that Rielly caught him off guard after the goal.

“A little bit,” Greig said. “I don’t think you’re ever expecting a guy to cross-check you in the face. But I’m also not sure if he meant to do that.”

Typically, with empty-net goals — a sign the game’s outcome has been decided — the scoring team simply pushes the puck into the net or perhaps tries a wrist shot, so as not to show up the losing opponent. Very rarely do players wind up with a slap shot, especially so close to the crease.

“It was a lot adrenaline,” Greig said when asked what his thoughts were when he decided on the slap shot. “It was the heat of the moment, the heat of the game. It was an emotional game. I just got a breakaway, and I thought I’d bury it.”

It clearly set off the Maple Leafs, even beyond Rielly.

“We obviously didn’t like the result on the empty-netter,” Toronto captain John Tavares said Saturday. “So, we’re going to stick together and stand our ground when necessary.”

In the win over the Blue Jackets, Greig scored his ninth goal of the season, part of a Senators offensive surge.

Brady Tkachuk recorded the second hat trick of his career, and Claude Giroux added a short-handed goal and two assists as Ottawa won its fourth straight game.

“We needed everybody to step up, and I just hope we can build off of it,” Tkachuk said. “The last couple of games, we’ve had a lot of looks but haven’t been able to bury it. Tonight was a steppingstone, and we just have to keep it going.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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