Nick Goss

Bennett gives explanation for controversial Marchand hit in Game 3

"It's playoff hockey, there's going to be hard plays."

NBC Universal, Inc.

Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett has become the No. 1 villain for Boston Bruins fans over the last week.

He hit Brad Marchand in the head during the first period of Game 3 on a questionable play that resulted in Marchand missing the third period and then not playing at all in Game 4 on Sunday night. Bennett also was at the center of a controversial goalie interference call in Game 4 when he cross-checked Bruins center Charlie Coyle into Jeremy Swayman, thus preventing the goalie from being able to make a save. Despite a lengthy review, the goal was upheld and it tied the score at two.

The Panthers ended up winning 3-2 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead as the action shifts back to Florida for Game 5 on Tuesday night.

Bennett was asked about the hit on Marchand -- which he was not fined nor suspended for -- after the Panthers' Game 4 win.

“On that play, obviously I'm not trying to punch him in the head, like everyone is saying," Bennett told the TNT postgame show. "Other people can have different opinions. I'm just bracing myself for him coming to hit me. There's no way I would have had time to think about punching him in the head. People can see it however they want. It's playoff hockey, there's going to be hard plays. Obviously, it's unfortunate he got hit, but that's just a hockey play in my mind."

Bennett later added: “He's coming at me. Normally, I'm going to go with two hands to protect myself. Coming back from an injury, I'm going to protect myself however I can. That's really all there is to it, and like I said, it's unfortunate he got injured on it."

Bennett has a history of questionable plays.

For example, he made a very similar hit on Toronto Maple Leafs forward Matthew Knies in the second round of last season's playoffs. Knies ended up with a concussion as a result and missed the rest of that series. Bennett was not suspended.

The officiating is not the No. 1 reason why the Bruins are trailing 3-1 in this series. Their offensive output has been very underwhelming, to say the least. But the Bruins' frustration with the officials is understandable, to a degree. It's hard to beat a really good team like the Panthers when they have six power plays in three straight games.

Contact Us