No suspension: NHL fines Bennett for cross-check in last night’s Leafs-Panthers game

May 5 2023, 3:29 pm

On Friday, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced that Sam Bennett of the Florida Panthers has been fined $5,000 for cross-checking Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting.

The incident occurred on Thursday night in the third period of Game 2, when Bennett was issued a penalty for cross-checking Bunting in the neck in front of the visiting team’s net.

The impact of Bennett’s stick hitting Bunting’s neck brought the Leafs player to his knees. Bennett didn’t relent though, giving his opponent a few more whacks while he down on the ice.

After the game Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe called the play was “eerily similar” to Auston Matthews’ cross-check on Buffalo Sabres defenceman Rasmus Dahlin in last year’s outdoor game in Hamilton. “We know how that one worked out,” the coach said, referring to the two-game suspension Matthews was issued.

Another altercation involving Bennett came in the first period when he hit Toronto rookie Matt Knies up against the boards, slamming him down to the ice. Knies made his way to to the bench after the play and didn’t return for the rest of the  night.

While there was no penalty on the play, many are arguing that it too is worthy of suspension.

“I don’t have an update on his [Knies’] status,” Keefe told reporters on Thursday night. “He didn’t complete the game, so that is not positive.”

This is not Bennett’s first postseason infraction. He was suspended for a playoff game in 2021 when he boarded Tampa Bay Lightning forward Blake Coleman in the first game of Round 1.

Al SciolaAl Sciola

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