Disputed tying goal helps Panthers beat Bruins 3-2 and take 3-1 lead in East semifinal series

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One game after Sam Bennett punched Brad Marchand out of the playoffs, the Panthers forward sent the rest of the Bruins to the brink of elimination with an equally controversial shove to Charlie Coyle’s back.

Already drawing boos in the Garden because of a hit on Marchand that the Bruins are calling a sucker punch, Bennett scored the game-tying goal in Game 4 on Sunday night after sending Coyle tumbling into Boston goalie Jeremy Swayman.

The goal was upheld by the NHL replay center in Toronto, and Aleksander Barkov scored the game-winner four minutes later to lead Florida to a 3-2 victory and a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

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“I’m putting that puck in before Swayman’s going to be able to get over there, whether Coyle was on him or not. So, I think that’s the reason why it stood,” Bennett said. “And that’s how I saw it, as well.”

A year after Florida knocked out the record-setting Bruins in the first round on its way to the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers won their third straight to send Boston one game from elimination. Florida rallied from a two-goal deficit and took the lead with 13 minutes left when Barkov slipped through three Bruins defenders for the tiebreaking goal.

“It’s so much fun to watch Barky play hockey,” Bennett said. “For anyone else, that’s a career highlight goal. And for him, it’s just another day in the office. Pretty remarkable what he can do.”

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 16 shots and Anton Lundell also scored for Florida, which can advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a victory in Game 5 at home on Tuesday night.

Playing without Marchand, their captain and leading scorer in the postseason, Boston jumped to a 2-0 lead with goals from David Pastrnak and Brandon Carlo. Swayman made 38 saves, but he was covered up by Coyle when Bennett tied the game 3:41 into the third period.

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“The fact is that my own player was pushed into me by theirs and I couldn’t play my position,” Swayman said.

According to NHL Rule 69.1, “If a defending player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player so as to cause the defending player to come into contact with his own goalkeeper, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, and if necessary a penalty assessed to the attacking player and if a goal is scored it would be disallowed.”

Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said he was told by the referees that “the play didn’t interfere with the goal.”

“That’s the explanation I got,” Montgomery said.

Unlike its more popular major North American sports brethren, the NHL does not make referees available to reporters to explain controversial calls. The Bruins said general manager Don Sweeney would address the media on Monday.

For the Bruins, it was a pattern of missed calls that already cost them their captain. Bennett denied on Sunday night that he had tried to hit Marchand, saying he was bracing himself for the collision when he made contact with the Boston forward’s head.

Marchand was scratched from Game 4 and was reportedly in the concussion protocol.

“People can have their opinions. I know it definitely wasn’t intentional,” Bennett said. “It’s unfortunate that he got hurt. Obviously, he’s a heck of a player and a big part of that team. So, it’s unfortunate, but by no means was that an intentional punch in the face.”

Boston, which lost three of its last four games in the regular season to fall one point below Florida in the Atlantic Division, now must win three straight — with two on the road — to remain alive in the playoffs.

Pastrnak had 47 goals this season, but just one on the power play in the final 34 games of the regular season and the first 10 of the playoffs. Boston hadn’t scored at all on the man-advantage in its first 11 tries in the Florida series. But Pastrnak slapped a 92 mph missile past Bobrovsky just off the faceoff after Aaron Ekblad was sent off for interference midway through the first period.

Carlo, who scored in Game 1 just a few hours after his wife gave birth to their son, made it 2-0 with five minutes left in the first on a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the blue line.

But the Panthers kept putting shots on net, outshooting Boston 15-5 in the first period, and it paid off early in the second when Lundell made it a one-goal game five minutes into the second. In all, Florida had a 41-18 advantage in shots.

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