Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin suspended 4 games for cross-check to face of Nashville Predators' Mark Borowiecki

Evgeni Malkin has been suspended four games without pay for cross-checking Nashville's Mark Borowiecki in the face, a significant blow to the Pittsburgh Penguins as they hope to hold on to their playoff position.

Malkin will miss upcoming games against the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins after the NHL's department of player safety announced the suspension Monday following a disciplinary hearing. In a video explaining the suspension, the league called Malkin's cross-check "retaliatory and aggressive."

Malkin was initially given only a four-minute double-minor penalty after striking Borowiecki in the mouth with his stick at the end of the second period Sunday.

"It's an emotional game out there,'' coach Mike Sullivan told reporters after the game. "It's physical, and sometimes that stuff happens. It was a physical game, especially at the net fronts in those areas where that took place.

"Obviously, we don't want our best players in the penalty box, but these guys are competitive guys and they push back. We'd prefer they be on the ice. They give us a better chance when they're on the ice, for sure. But one of the things we love about Geno is how competitive he is, and so when you get an emotional game like the game we had today, those things happen.''

This is Malkin's second suspension after a one-game ban for high-sticking in 2019. He has been fined three times. This suspension costs him $190,000 in salary.

He's eligible to return April 23 versus Detroit.

The Penguins beat the Predators in overtime to snap a four-game skid. They have lost seven of their last 10 games and are in danger of falling out of third place in the Metropolitan Division and into an Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

Malkin missed the first 34 games of the season rehabbing from knee surgery. Since making his season debut Jan. 11, the 35-year-old Russian center has been a point-a-game player with 17 goals and 20 assists in 37 games.