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Capitals’ Garnet Hathaway slapped with three-game ‘intent to injure’ suspension for spitting

Capitals right wing Garnet Hathaway (21) scuffles with Anaheim Ducks defenseman Erik Gudbranson, second from left. (Nick Wass/AP)
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NEW YORK — Washington Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway was suspended for three games for spitting on Anaheim’s Erik Gudbranson toward the end of a brawl in the second period of Washington’s 5-2 win over the Ducks on Monday night.

Hathaway received a match penalty for spitting after he believed Gudbranson threw a sucker punch at him while the two were being held apart by an official. All match penalties carry an automatic suspension, pending review by the NHL’s league office. Players have been disciplined for spitting or similar offenses such as licking or making threatening gestures in the past, but there wasn’t much precedent.

Hathaway had his hearing with the league over the phone Wednesday morning, and the announcement came 6½ hours before the Capitals 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Hathaway said after the game he will not be appealing the suspension and that the league’s explanation for the length of the suspension was because his act constituted an “intent to injure.”

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“It was tough to swallow because I want to be out there with the guys,” Hathaway said. “You know, I felt helpless tonight, and I let the guys down in the room and I let the organization down. In the end, I respect the league’s decision, and I had a fair opportunity to explain my side of things and how I saw the events unfold, and you, know, I don’t plan on appealing anything. In my view, it was a hectic situation. Coming out of a fight, there was a second, third and fourth man that came in, and I got sucker punched a few times and I let my emotions take over. I had an emotional reaction that I regret, and I wish it didn’t happen. No one regrets it or is more disappointed than I am.”

Hathaway was suspended without pay, meaning he will forfeit $24,193.53 of his salary. He will be eligible to return for the team’s Nov. 29 game against Tampa Bay. The Capitals play the Ducks again Dec. 6.

“That is the decision the league made, and, you know, we support it,” Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said. “That is something that obviously I’ve spoken highly of this player, and, you know, that is something he regrets, and our team is not going to have him for three games. He is an important part of our team. It is a tough situation to go through, and he will be a better person for it in the long run.”

After Monday’s game, Hathaway admitted “spit came out of [his] mouth” after he got punched, and it “went onto” Gudbranson. He said he regretted the incident and said it had “no place in the game.”

“I regret doing it,” Hathaway said after an optional skate Tuesday. “That’s the most I can say. My emotions, I was pretty tied up, and I felt like there was a third man and a fourth man in, and I didn’t have any arms free and made an emotional decision that I wish I didn’t, but right now I am trying to move on from it, and there is nothing that I can do but apologize.”

The match penalty occurred after Brendan Leipsic’s massive hit on Anaheim’s Derek Grant behind the Ducks’ net, which started a melee. Hathaway took on multiple Anaheim players in the aftermath. The NHL rule book states that “spitting on or at an opponent or spectator” could result in a game misconduct penalty, and the NHL commissioner then has full power to impose any further penalty.

Without Hathaway for three games, including Wednesday night, the Capitals made a flurry of roster moves Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning to account for the looming suspension and a handful of injuries.

With Carl Hagelin (upper body) placed on long-term injured reserve, Nic Dowd (hand) on injured reserve and Nicklas Backstrom (upper body, day-to-day) ruled out against the Rangers, the Capitals called up center Michael Sgarbossa, forward Beck Malenstyn, defenseman Tyler Lewington and goaltender Ilya Samsonov. The Capitals also assigned goaltender Vitek Vanecek to their American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, Pa.

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