COLUMBUS, Ohio — NHL leading scorer Nikita Kucherov has been suspended for Game 3 of the Tampa Bay Lightning's first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Kucherov was suspended for boarding Columbus defenceman Markus Nutivaara late in Tampa Bay's 5-1 loss in Game 2 to trail 2-0 in the series. Kucherov was given a major penalty and ejected for hitting Nutivaara in a defenceless position with 4:26 remaining in the lopsided defeat.

The Presidents' Trophy winning Lightning will have to try to win in Columbus on Sunday without the player who put up a league-best 128 points during the season. They also could be without banged-up Norris Trophy calibredefenceman Victor Hedman, who did not practice Saturday.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper says he hopes Hedman can play. But Kucherov is out after what the NHL called a "dangerous hit on a player in an exposed position."

In a video announcing the suspension, the league said Kucherov's action falls in the category of message-sending because it came in the final minutes of a one-sided game.