Bruins not sure how Sam Bennett's controversial goal was allowed in Game 4 loss

by 24USATVMay 13, 2024, 5:20 p.m. 25
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BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins are on the brink of elimination after losing a third straight playoff game to the Florida Panthers. Sunday night's 3-2 loss in Game 4 at TD Garden had another controversial no-call that hurt the Bruins, and once again centers around Florida's Sam Bennett.

Bennett was already a villain in Boston heading into Sunday night's Game 4 after his extremely questionable hit (and sucker punch) on Brad Marchand early in Game 3. Marchand did not play in Game 4 with an upper-body injury, leaving the Bruins without their captain.

On Sunday, Bennett was in the middle of controversy again early in the third period, scoring a game-tying goal after clearly sending Charlie Coyle into Jeremy Swayman and interfering with the Boston goaltender.

With the Bruins up 2-1, the Panthers were on a power play and on the attack in the Boston zone. With a mess in front of Swayman in the Boston net, Bennett gave Coyle a hard check to the back, sending Coyle into Swayman. The puck found its way to Bennett off a rebound, and he took full advantage of an open net and evened the game at 2-2.

The Bruins immediately cried foul. Head coach Jim Montgomery challenged the call, confident that officials would see that Bennett cross-checked Coyle into Swayman and call him for goaltender interference. It was his shove that sent Coyle into Swayman and prevented the Boston goalie from making a play on the puck, so it seemed pretty clearcut.

But much to the surprise of most hockey viewers, the call on the ice stood after a brief review and the game was knotted at 2-2. The Bruins killed off the penalty for an unsuccessful challenge, but four minutes after Bennett's goal, Aleksander Barkov snuck through the B's defense and scored for Florida, lifting the Panthers to a 3-2 victory and pushing the Bruins to the edge.

As you could imagine, the Bruins weren't too pleased that the call on the ice was not overturned.

Jim Montgomery reacts to his unsuccessful challenge in Game 4

Montgomery believed there was clear interference on the play. He said that the ruling to keep the goal on the board was made by the made by the NHL video review department in Toronto.

"Toronto ruled that it was a good goal, that the play didn't interfere with the goal. That's the explanation I got," Montgomery said after the loss. "We thought that Coyle was on top of our goaltender, and if Coyle was able to stand his ground, he could've cleared the puck. That inhibited our goaltender from being able to react to playing the puck."

Montgomery said he didn't want comment further on the league's decision.

"The league does a good job of handling their end of things. Just like I think teams do a good job of handling their teams," he said.

Charlie Coyle, Jeremy Swayman believe it was clear interference

Coyle shared his side of the play after the loss, and believes he would have had a play on the puck had Bennett not shoved him from behind.

"The puck goes in the crease and I'm trying to make a play. It goes through me. I feel a push from behind, I go down into Sway. The puck trickles past right to their guy with an empty net. I figured I could probably turn around and make a play on it and clear it. That's what happened. It's a tough call," said Coyle. "Sometimes, you gotta play through things. Can't make excuses, right?"

Coyle said he fell into Swayman, which clearly inhibited the Bruins goalie from getting in position on the play, and the goal should not have stood.

"I'm falling over all the way if I don't hit Swayman. There's no way he can get there," explained Coyle. "My momentum hit him, so he can't get over. I think that's how it went."

Swayman said it was pretty obvious that interference was caused by Bennett.

"I just want to stick to facts, and the fact is that my own player was pushed into me by theirs. And I couldn't play my position," said Swayman, who had 38 saves on the night.

Coyle said the Bennett goal completely changed the momentum of the game.

"It's a huge swing," Coyle added. "They score to tie it and a get a [power play] out of it. That's the momentum and the swings of the game. We saw something different. They saw something different. I have no other words for that. Whether we agree with it or not, we gotta play through whatever."

Sam Bennett obviously believed the goal should have stood

On TNT after the game, Bennett called his hit on Coyle "a little shove."

"And I put the puck in the net before Swayman's gonna have an opportunity," Bennett said. "Whether Coyle's in his grill or not, I believe I put that puck in before he's getting across no matter what."

NHL PR backs the goal not being overturned

Rule 69.1 in the NHL rule book states: "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 goalie, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player. If necessary, a penalty is assessed to the attacking player. If a goal is scored, it would be disallowed."

So it sounds like the goal should have been taken off the board. But the NHL backed the call, saying the contact did NOT prevent Swayman from playing his position.

"Video review supported the Referees' call on the ice that the shove by Florida's Sam Bennett on Charlie Coyle and the subsequent contact with Jeremy Swayman did not prevent Swayman from playing his position in the crease prior to Bennett's goal," NHL Public Relations said of the play.

The Bruins kept battling after that unsuccessful challenge, but couldn't overcome that huge shift in momentum. Now their season is on the line in Tuesday night's Game 5 in Florida.

It's simple -- but not at all easy -- for the Boston Bruins going forward. Win three straight or the Panthers will end their season for a second straight summer.

The Panthers overcame a 3-1 series lead against Boston last postseason, so turning the tables this time would be a great way for the Bruins to get some revenge on Florida.

"I have no doubt in this group," Swayman said Sunday night. "And we have a lot of confidence, and a lot of motivation to bring it back to Boston, because our fans deserve a lot better. And we're excited to do that."

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