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Sullivan Thinks Florida Panthers Overreacted to Hit on Barkov

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Florida Panthers Barkov Mike Sullivan Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH — The Florida Panthers did not take kindly to a Kris Letang hit which led to a scary moment for captain Sasha Barkov in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

In a play away from the puck, Letang’s shoulder grazed Barkov’s, but sent him sliding to the boards, leading to a moment where Barkov was shaken up and slow to get up.

His Panthers teammates immediately went after Letang — and continued to do so after he served four minutes of penalty time — after Barkov was helped to the locker room and later returned to the game.

But Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan did not believe that hit was a penalty at all.

“I don’t know what everybody was upset about, there was barely contact,” Sullivan said.

“It was incidental contact. It wasn’t even a penalty in my opinion, so I don’t know why everybody was so up in arms about it. For me, [Letang] is playing hockey. He’s a competitive guy and we have competitive guys. We’re a competitive team and it was an emotional game. I think, in these situations, both teams are invested, it’s just part of it and it makes for some exciting hockey.”

As for the call on the ice, the play was effectively a two-minute penalty for interference — common for a play involving contact away from the play.

Letang had already tripped Evan Rodrigues earlier in the shift and made the hit on Barkov during an ensuing delayed penalty.

But the Panthers did not care how much penalty kill time was on the board — they want to step up for their guys.

“That’s kind of what our team is,” Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “If anyone goes down, we stick up for that guy, and obviously we did.”

Florida took eight total penalties, including four in a row to close out the second period following the hit on Barkov.

The Panthers were glad to have Barkov back, who played a crucial role in helping kill seven of them off before scoring one of the two goals which helped them to a victory in the shootout.

“They’re all big men and if they get caught in an unsuspecting position, they can crack their head on the boards,” coach Paul Maurice said.

“So you just have your fingers crossed because I’ve seen guys take lesser hits, they’ll pop their heads and you won’t see them for a while. So we’re fortunate we got through it.”

As for his team’s response to it?

Maurice loved it.

“They care of their own,” he said. “And we got the kills that we needed to off that, so they care about each other.”

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS

  • When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: UBS Arena, Elmont, N.Y.
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • This Season — At Florida: Islanders 4, Panthers 3 (Dec. 2.); March 28. At Islanders: Saturday
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Panthers lead 56-34-11, 8 ties
  • Next Up for the Panthers: Feb. 6 vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

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