Panthers’ center Sam Bennett celebrates scoring the tying goal against Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman in the third period of Game 4 of their second-round series on Sunday in Boston. Nancy Lane/Boston Herald

Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett doesn’t need any outside help raising the collective ire of the Boston Bruins and their fans.

But that’s what Bennett got on Sunday night from the situation room in Toronto in the third period of the Panthers’ 3-2 victory over the Bruins in Game 4 of their Stanley Cup playoff series.

Bennett tied the game 2-2 on a controversial play that transpired in the Boston crease on the power play at 3:41 of the third. Evan Rodrigues set the play in motion with a feed down low to Anton Lundell on the right side of the crease. Lundell sent the puck across the crease as bodies from both camps closed in on Bruins’ goaltender Jeremy Swayman.

Bennett is clearly seen cross-checking Charlie Coyle from behind where he toppled on top of Swayman, preventing the goalie from covering the near post. Bennett collected the loose puck and effortlessly lifted it into the exposed half of the Boston cage for his second goal of the playoffs.

Bruins Coach Jim Montgomery issued a coach’s challenge citing goaltender interference that sent the referees into a conference with their overseers in the situation room. Montgomery’s challenge was rejected, the goal counted and everything went Florida’s way the rest of the game.

“I wasn’t surprised, I thought they got the right call,” said Bennett. “I think by the time (I’m) putting that puck in (it’s) before Swayman was able to get over there, whether Coyle was on him or not. I think that was the reason why it stood and that was how I saw it as well.”


The NHL issued a brief statement after the game in defense of their ruling.

“Video review supported the referees’ call on the ice that that the shove by Florida’s Sam Bennett on Charlie Coyle and the subsequent contact with Jeremy Swayman did not prevent Swayman from playing his position in the crease prior to Bennett’s goal.”

Panthers Coach Paul Maurice was defensive when asked about the controversial call. But Maurice has become very good at defending Bennett both in this series and on other questionable plays in the past.

“I will have an opinion and it would be no,” said Maurice when asked if he was surprised the challenge was unsuccessful. “In that, it will have no impact on the play in the game.

“The connection between the two and the contact between the two (Bennett and Coyle) was not egregious at all. The play just gets finished more than anything else and that’s the situation.”

Bennett had an even bigger impact on the series in the first period on Florida’s 6-2 victory in Game 3 on Friday night at the Garden. Bennett and Bruins’ captain Brad Marchand were involved in a violent collision in front of the Boston bench. Marchand got the worst of the contact. He collapsed onto the ice surface and staggered into the Bruins bench. The video shows Bennett making an upward motion toward Marchand’s head but there was no penalty called on the play. Marchand did not play in the third period on Game 3 and did not dress for Game 4.


“It is one of those plays where he is coming to hit me and I am trying to brace myself,” said Bennett. “There is no way I would have had time for punching him in the face like everyone said.

“People can have their opinions and I know it definitely wasn’t intentional. I was bracing myself as he’s coming to hit me. It is unfortunate he got hit, he is a heck of a player and a big part of their team. It is unfortunate but by no means was that an intentional punch in the face.”

Bennett added that he wasn’t worried about retribution for the Bruins players and deftly deflected the caustic barbs that Montgomery hurled his way after Saturday’s practice.

“It’s playoff hockey and I love it,” said Bennett. “I think get a little extra juice (and) a little extra excited for these games but I enjoy every second of these guys.

“You hear it all and I got a good taste for it in Toronto last year. I just kind of get used to it and it is playoff hockey, people are going to say what they want.

“Obviously, they have passionate fans here and they cheer for their team. They are going to do everything they can to support their team. But we have our game plan and we know what we need to do and we are not affected by outside noise.”

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