The incident occurred in the third period of the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s 5-4 win over the Panthers in Game 1 of the first round series on Sunday. Bennett delivered a forceful hit on Lightning forward Blake Coleman into the boards. Bennett was assessed two minutes for charging on the play.
“From the moment Bennett hits the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Coleman’s numbers,” said a narrator in a video published by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety explaining the decision. “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 at the very least minimize its force. Instead, he drives directly through Coleman’s back with speed, driving him forcefully into the boards.”
Bennett has no prior history of discipline by the Department of Player Safety. He joined the Panthers at the trade deadline from Calgary, and made an immediate impact, scoring 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 10 regular season games.
Coleman remained in the game following the play, and the Lightning scored on the ensuing powerplay. However Lighting coach Jon Cooper still took umbrage, calling it a “predatory hit” after the game.
“That was a tough one to watch,” Cooper said. “I’m just happy that Coleman’s OK.”
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Wednesday in Sunrise, Florida.