Bruins baffled by NHL decision not to overturn Panthers goal for interference: ‘I couldn’t play my position’

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BOSTON — The way Charlie Coyle remembered the sequence, he was trying to play an Anton Lundell rebound that bounced off Jeremy Swayman’s left pad. The next thing he knew, he felt a stick in his back.

The stick of villain Sam Bennett, of course.

“I’m trying to make a play,” Coyle said after the Boston Bruins’ 3-2 Game 4 loss to Bennett and the Florida Panthers. “It goes through me. I feel a push from behind. I go down on Sway. The puck trickles past, right to their guy. Empty net. I figured I could probably turn around and make a play on it or clear it. That’s what happened.

“It’s a tough call. Sometimes you’ve got to play through things. Can’t make excuses.”

Coyle is 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds. He is a load that fell onto Swayman. Naturally, it was not easy for the goalie to push away Coyle’s mass and get to his right to stop the puck.

“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Swayman said. “I just know I couldn’t play my position. And the review showed that.”

Video coordinators Mat Myers and Dan Darrow are in charge of initiating the Bruins’ reviews. Upon their counsel, coach Jim Montgomery told referees Frederick L’Ecuyer and Francis Charron that he would be challenging the tying goal for goaltender interference. From the Bruins’ perspective, both Coyle and Swayman were denied opportunities to play the puck because of Bennett’s cross-check.

“We thought that Coyle was on top of our goaltender,” Montgomery said. “And if Coyle was able to stand his ground, he could have cleared the puck. That inhibited our goaltender from being able to react to playing the puck.”

According to 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 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.

L’Ecuyer and Charron put on their headsets and looked at the goal on their screen. The challenge was overturned. Bennett’s tying goal was good. According to Montgomery, the situation room in Toronto made the call, not the on-ice referees.

“Toronto ruled that it was a good goal,” Montgomery said. “That the play didn’t interfere with the goal. That’s the explanation I got.”

According to the NHL, video review upheld the original on-ice call of a good goal. The shove by Coyle on Bennett, per the league, and the subsequent contact on Swayman did not prevent the goalie from playing his position in the crease prior to the Florida center’s goal.

By Coyle’s recollection, he got a good piece of Swayman on his way down. Bennett hit him that hard.

“I’m falling over all the way if I don’t hit Swayman,” Coyle said of the force of Bennett’s cross-check. “There’s no way he can get there. I hit him. If I don’t hit him, I’m falling.”

With Coyle either on top of his right pad or blocking its progress, Swayman believed there was no way he could stretch out to stop Bennett’s shot. When Montgomery issued the challenge, Swayman was sure the goal was coming back.

“I know that our guys aren’t going to challenge a goal unless they know it’s going to get (overturned),” Swayman said. “I was really confident in that.”

The Bruins were up 2-0 after the first period. Swayman buckled on Lundell’s second-period one-timer.

But the Bruins were still in control of the game when Hampus Lindholm went off for interference. Swayman was keeping his crease clear. The Bruins had more offensive life than they did in the first period despite their two-goal early lead.

But the unsuccessful challenge was a kick to the head the Bruins could not overcome. Because of the challenge, the Bruins had to kill another penalty. They could not build any offensive momentum. Bennett’s goal gave the Panthers oxygen and stole it from the Bruins.

All of this set up Aleksander Barkov for the winning goal after he danced through David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk.

Now Swayman and the Bruins have the tables turned. Once up 3-1 in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the ace has to steal three wins for the Bruins to come back in Round 2.

“It’s playoff hockey, and we better believe it because it’s reality,” Swayman said of being down 3-1. “And the reality is that we’re going to go to Florida. We’re going to play the same game. And we’re going to get it done. I have no doubt in this group. 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.”

(Top photo: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)

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