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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Sam Bennett Makes Instant Impact, Helps Panthers Beat Bruins



Panthers bruins
Sam Bennett warms up before Game 3 against the Boston Bruins on Friday night. Bennett had an instant impact after being out since Game 2 against the Lightning. // Photos courtesy @FlaPanthers

BOSTON — When Sam Bennett returned to the Florida Panthers lineup for Game 3 of their second-round series against the Boston Bruins, he wanted to make an impact immediately.

That was all he could think about since he started working his way back from a hand injury he sustained in Game 2 against the Lightning.

“It was nice to get back out there,” Bennett said after Florida beat the Bruins 6-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

“I think it’s important not to dip your toe in. I want to go out there and play full speed and that’s kind of my game. I think that’s the only way to approach it.”

Bennett racked up seven hits as the Panthers wore down the Bruins on the forecheck and picked up a crucial assist, setting Vladimir Tarasenko up for Florida’s second goal of the night in a 6-2 rout of the Bruins.

He went in there and immediately brought his A-game as he has done on a consistent basis throughout his postseason career.

“I love playoff hockey,” Bennett said. “It’s hard. It’s a little faster, it’s more physical, every play is a little bit more important.

“You’re able to go out there and lay it all on the line because of how important the game is and I love that opportunity.”

Bennett called it “torture” to watch his teammates from the sidelines, and especially so against the team’s biggest rival in the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.

He shines in those moments when things get chippy.

Bennett scored five goals and 15 points in 20 games last season during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

He and has 19 goals and 45 points in 68 total playoff games throughout his career.

“He’s just such a talented player,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “He is such a hard worker, he’s physical, he gets in on the forecheck, he is strong on pucks and we certainly missed him when he was out.

“When he comes in, it’s just such a huge boost to our team and to our locker room. Guys are jacked up to have him back and I thought he played awesome, had some big hits tonight, made some great plays. He kind of touches every aspect of the game for us and he was super good for us.”

Bennett’s return helped the Panthers in a variety of ways.

His on-ice impact spoke for itself, but his return pushed Anton Lundell down to a third line which desperately needed a spark.

And that line provided Florida’s first punch of the game with the first of Evan Rodrigues’ two goals on Friday.

The Panthers kept the pressure heavy from all four lines from that point on.

“There’s two components to that,” coach Paul Maurice said of the impact of Bennett’s return. “His play style is maybe the prototypical Florida Panther identity. The way we like to play, he embodies that. And then there’s what it does for the rest of the lineup.

“That was equally as important because I think the Lundell line was our best line tonight and it kind of puts our pieces in place. He’s such a big part of it.”

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