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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Discipline for Sam Bennett Coming? Maple Leafs Not Happy



Panthers bruins game 2
Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett moves the puck in front of teammate Jonathan Huberdeau and Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn during the first period of Game 3 on May 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Sam Bennett was involved in two big hits during the Florida Panthers 3-2 win over the host Maple Leafs on Thursday night with the possibility he could face supplemental discipline — perhaps a fine, or even a suspension — from the NHL Player Safety department.

Only one of the plays was called a penalty on the ice.

In the third period of Game 2, Bennett was charged with cross-checking Michael Bunting in the neck while the two were jostling for position in front of the Florida net.

Bunting hit the ice, but eventually got up and continued the game — only after Bennett hit him in the back while he was down on the ice.

Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe was said it was a similar incident to one which got Auston Matthews a two-game suspension when he popped Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin in the Heritage Classic last season.

“I’m sure the cross-check on Bunting is eerily similar to the one we saw with Auston in the outdoor game last year,” Keefe told reporters. “We saw how that one worked out. The league will look at all these kinds of things.”

Florida coach Paul Maurice said he did not recall watching the Heritage Classic game and deferred the question — basically saying Florida has been punished enough in this series.

The Panthers have been called for 7 penalties in the first two games; Toronto 3.

On Thursday night, the Leafs went 1-for-3 on the power play; Florida was 0-1.

“Everyone seemed to survive that tangle up behind the net,” Maurice said. “I think we have been on the other side of the ledger enough.”

Bennett was suspended for a playoff game in 2021 when he boarded Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman in Game 1 of that opening-round series.

The other big hit, one which was not called a penalty, came in the first period when he hit Toronto rookie Matt Knies up against the boards. The two got tangled up with Bennett slamming Knies to the ice.

Knies ended up not finishing the game after taking two big hits early on — one from Matthew Tkachuk which he was penalized for charging.

“Hopefully he’s alright, hopefully it is nothing major,” John Tavares said. “Obviously he has been playing really good hockey for us and has made an impact and it is nothing serious. I didn’t love (the hit) and it resulted in an injury. We just have to keep playing, stay disciplined and keep working for our opportunities.”

It is very possible — OK, probable — the league’s player safety department takes a close look at both plays by Bennett.

Could he face a fine or a suspension?

Tkachuk does not think Bennett will get a call.

“I do not think he will hear from player safety, no,” he said.

We’ll see.

GAME 3 (Panthers Lead 2-0)

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