SUNRISE — The NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended Florida forward Sam Bennett one game for his actions in Sunday’s playoff opener against the Lightning.
Late in the third period, Bennett charged toward forward Blake Coleman from the left side of the ice and collided with his back in the corner, shoving Coleman face first into the glass.
Bennett was assessed a charging penalty and will miss Game 2 on Tuesday night. It’s the first time in Bennett’s 412-game career that he has been suspended.
Since the former Calgary player was traded to the Panthers, he has scored 15 points in 10 regular-season games. On Sunday, he recorded two assists.
The NHL rule book defines charging as “the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A ‘charge’ may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.”
The league’s video explanation of the ruling describes Bennett’s actions as “a forceful hit to Lightning forward Blake Coleman that caused him to be thrown dangerously into the boards.”
The Department of Player Safety added that “Bennett approaches with speed from a distance” and “hits through Coleman’s back with force.” The league believed that Coleman’s back was turned to Bennett “with ample time to make a better decision.”
After Sunday’s 5-4 win, Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who normally refrains from commenting on such plays, said the hit was “predatory.”
Earlier in the game, Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh was called for boarding Panthers forward Anthony Duclair into the boards. No further action was taken from the league after he served his boarding penalty in the first period.
The Lightning-Panthers rivalry has been a physical one this season.
In their penultimate regular-season meeting, the teams logged 154 penalty minutes, 10 game misconducts and four fighting majors.
Lightning forward Pat Maroon was even suspended for the regular-season finale after a scuffle with Panthers forward Brandon Montour. The league determined Maroon’s actions at the time warranted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
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