Sam Bennett will not be available to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night after the center was suspended one game by the NHL for his hit on Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman on Sunday night.
Bennett, who came to the Panthers from Calgary at the trade deadline, will serve his suspension during Game 2 on Tuesday night.
The Lightning lead the best-of-7 series 1-0 after beating the Panthers 5-4 on Sunday night.
Bennett charged Coleman in the third period apparently in retaliation for Coleman’s shot on Florida captain Sasha Barkov moments before.
The Lightning went on the power play with Brayden Point tying the score with Bennett in the box.
“Predatory hit,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “I’ll let the league deal with that. But I was really happy that we scored on the power play on that. That was a tough one to watch.I’m just happy that Coleman’s OK.”
Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett will have a hearing today for boarding #GoBolts forward Blake Coleman in Game 1 last night. Was called as 2 minutes for charging in-game. #FlaPanthers pic.twitter.com/LOVJjiX4iS
— NHL News (@PuckReportNHL) May 17, 2021
Per the NHL’s explanation video, Bennett had plenty of time to minimize or avoid the hit on Coleman as he came through the face off circle with Coleman’s back toward him.
The league described it as a “forceful hit that caused him to be dangerously thrown into the boards.”
More from the explanation: “Bennett approaches with speed from a distance and, despite seeing nothing but Coleman’s numbers for some time, hits through Coleman’s back with force driving him dangerously into the boards. This is boarding. … 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 minimize its force. Instead he drove directly through Coleman’s back with speed.”
Losing Bennett will affect the Panthers in a number of positions.
First, Bennett has been Florida’s second-line center since his arrival. In 10 regular season games with the Panthers, Bennett scored six goals with 15 points.
He appeared to score the first goal of Sunday’s game, but an official on the ice ruled it was goalie interference as Bennett appeared to move Andrei Vasilevskiy’s pad and move the goalie across the crease before the puck went across the line.
Because the goal was waved off on the ice, the Panthers decided not to challenge the ruling via video review because the burden of proof would now be to show there was no contact which there was.
Bennett is also one of the team’s better penalty killers.
Florida could have Alex Wennberg return to the second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Owen Tippett on Tuesday night or perhaps Juho Lammikko or Eetu Luostarinen.
PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
GAME 2: LIGHTNING AT PANTHERS
TAMPA BAY LEADS BEST-OF-7 SERIES 1-0
- When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
- Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise
- Tickets: AVAILABLE HERE
- Regular season series: Florida won 5-2-1
- TV: CNBC, BS-FLA
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM