Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett has been suspended one game for boarding Tampa Bay Lightning forward Blake Coleman during Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series.
The hit came with 8:15 remaining in the third period of Sunday’s game, with Florida leading 4-3.
Bennett was given a minor penalty for charging on the play. Both referees’ arms went up after the hit, with Dan O’Rourke handling the booking.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper called it a “predatory hit”. Player Safety agreed, calling it a “forceful hit” where Coleman was “thrown dangerously into the boards”, adding:
Bennett approaches with speed from a distance and – despite having seen nothing but Coleman’s numbers for some time – hits through Coleman’s back with force, driving him dangerously into the boards. This is boarding. It is important to note that while Coleman does turn towards the boards to play the puck, this is not a case of a player turning immediately prior to contact in a way that turns a legal hit into an illegal one.
[Bennett] sees nothing but Coleman’s numbers with ample time to make a better decision. The onus is on Bennett to deliver this hit in a legal fashion, avoid it entirely, or, at the very least, minimize its force. Instead he drives directly through Coleman’s back with speed, driving him forcefully into the boards.
Tampa scored the game tying goal on that PP. Brayden Point tied it up before winning it in regulation with just 1:14 remaining.
Bennett has not previously been fined or suspended in his 412-game NHL career.
Game Two is set for Tuesday night at 8.
Referees for the game were Dan O’Rourke (#9) and Kyle Rehman (#10). Linesmen were Brad Kovachik (#71) and Kory Nagy (#97).