SUNRISE — It may not have seemed like a big moment at the time, but Sam Bennett taking a charging penalty with the Florida Panthers leading the Lightning in the third period of Game 1 last year may have been a turning point in the series.
The Panthers held a 4-3 lead on the Lightning in the third when Bennett raced across the ice to slam Blake Coleman up against the glass.
With Bennett in the box, Brayden Point tied the score. Just over five minutes later, Point untied it as the Lightning took a 1-0 series lead.
Bennett, who had never been suspended before, was forced to sit out Game 2.
Tampa Bay took that game as well and went back to the west coast holding a commanding 2-0 series lead before winning it in six.
If the Panthers win Game 1, is the series any different?
But the penalty did not help things along — and Bennett knows this.
”We know how good their power play is and discipline will be a big key for us,” Bennett said Monday afternoon.
“That’s something we will be aware of. … There is a lot of anamosity between these teams, the rivalry is growing stronger every time we play each other. The first 20 will be intense but we have to be disciplined and not lose our composure.”
How hard was it to sit out Game 2 knowing the importance of it?
”It was the worst,” Bennett said. “It’s a feeling of, you can’t help your team and you’re letting your team down by not playing. It is not a good feeling and it is not one I want to have again. That is something I learned for sure.”
Coach Andrew Brunette said his team learned by seeing the big penalty and suspension.
While there is nothing wrong with aggressive, hard-hitting play, going a step too far can be costly in the playoffs.
“I am sure a lot of guys learned a lesson from my mistake,” Bennett said.
The Panthers would certainly like to keep Bennett on the ice as much as possible as he has become one of their most counted on players since arriving at the 2021 trade deadline.
MORNING SKATE UPDATE
- Captain Sasha Barkov was named one three finalists for the Selke Trophy. He was the first Panthers player to ever win that award last year.
- The Panthers, as expected will have Sergei Bobrovsky in net tonight for Game 1. The Lightning did not skate but Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the start.
- Brunette said Mason Marchment will not play in Game 1 and is considered day-to-day for the series with a lower body injury.
- With Anthony Duclair back in the lineup, Maxim Mamin will be a healthy scratch tonight.
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
PANTHERS V. LIGHTNING
- Game 1: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: TNT
- Postgame: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- Draft Kings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-160); Puck line (-1.5, +155); Over/Under 7 (+110/-130); Series (-165)
PANTHERS V. LIGHTNING
- Regular season series — Tied 2-2: Florida 4, @Lightning 1 (Oct. 19); @Lightning 3, Florida 2 OT (Nov. 13); @Florida 9, Lightning 3 (Dec 30); Tampa Bay 8, @Florida 4 (April 24).
- All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 73-49-18, 10 ties
- Playoff history: Second meeting; Tampa Bay d. Florida 4-2 in R1, 2021
- Round 1: Florida d. Washington 4-2; Tampa Bay d. Toronto 4-3
- Full schedule — Game 1: Tampa Bay at Florida (TNT), 7; Game 2: Tampa Bay at Florida, Thursday, 7 (TNT); Game 3: Florida at Tampa Bay, Sunday, 1:30 (TNT); Game 4: Florida at Tampa Bay, Monday, 7 (TNT); Game 5*: Tampa Bay at Florida, Wednesday, May 25 (Time, TV TBA); Game 6*: Florida at Tampa Bay Lightning, Friday, May 27 (Time, TV TBA); Game 7*: Tampa Bay at Florida, Sunday, May 29 (Time, TV TBA). (*) — If necessary.