How a disputed Panthers goal helped put the Bruins in a 3-1 hole: 4 takeaways

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BOSTON — To add insult to injury Sunday night in a game the Boston Bruins probably felt Sam Bennett probably shouldn’t have been playing in the first place, the Florida Panthers agitator scored a controversial tying goal in the third period of Florida’s come-from-behind 3-2 victory to take a 3-1 second-round series lead.

This after what the Bruins said they had seen there was “clearly evidence” of Bennett sucker punching captain Brad Marchand on Friday night.

Bennett scored after pushing Bruins center Charlie Coyle into goalie Jeremy Swayman. Coach Jim Montgomery challenged and it looked like it would be a cut-and-dried overturn, but after a long review, the NHL situation room in concert with referees Francis Charron and Frederick L’Ecuyer determined it was a good goal.

The Panthers ended up with a power play due to the unsuccessful challenge, and an incensed Montgomery lambasted both refs during action and during a subsequent TV timeout. The Panthers didn’t score there, but 3:50 after Bennett’s goal, Aleksander Barkov continued his tremendous playoff with the eventual winning goal.

Retired referees were even surprised Bennett’s goal counted.

In texts with The Athletic, one former referee said, “The call did surprise me.”

Another said, “Not sure exactly why. Possibly they felt the shove wasn’t as bad as the result. Tough to say without being on the headset.”

Former referee Tim Peel said, “I have no idea why that goal would count. I’m really confused.”

The NHL situation room said it felt “video review supported the Referees’ call on the ice that 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.”

Game 5 of the series is in South Florida on Tuesday night.

David Pastrnak and Brandon Carlo scored first-period goals for the Bruins, and Jeremy Swayman made 38 saves.

The game became tight in the second period when Anton Lundell ruined Swayman’s masterpiece with a seeing-eye shot after being first in on the forecheck and beating Swayman with a quick shot off Evan Rodrigues’ pass. Swayman had stopped all 26 shots he saw at that point, including 16 in the first period, when Boston was outshot 16-5. At one point in the game, Natural Stat Trick had scoring chances in favor of Florida at 15-2 and high-danger chances at 7-1.

Here are four quick takeaways on the game.

Pat Maroon wanted a piece of Sam Bennett

One reason the Bruins acquired Pat Maroon from the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline was the playoff pedigree of the hard-nosed veteran forward. Maroon has not only won three Stanley Cups, he is also a vocal locker-room guy who never shies from sticking up for teammates.

Maroon was yapping at Sergei Bobrovsky during warmups and stretched his chatter into the first period. After an icing, he barked at Bennett and wanted to fight the Panthers forward who injured Marchand in Game 3 with a sneaky right to his chin.

Bennett, who returned in Game 3 after a left hand or wrist injury, likely can’t fight right now and skated away. Maroon then engaged with Brandon Montour. The two have a history from Maroon’s time with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Maroon gestured as if to say he wanted to fight multiple Panthers. Nobody accepted the fourth liner’s invitation, but the crowd — already ecstatic with a 2-0 lead — loved it.

Charlie McAvoy is an alternate captain. He is the Bruins’ most punishing defenseman. Those two elements came together on McAvoy’s first shift. With Marchand unavailable in Game 4, McAvoy let the Panthers know the pain was coming. As Sam Reinhart tried to exit the Florida zone, McAvoy dropped the right wing with an open-ice hit to instantly raise the TD Garden roof.

Jakub Lauko draws critical penalty

David Pastrnak can hammer home power-play one-timers all day, like he did at 8:53 of the first to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. The hard part is setting up Pastrnak for such opportunities. That was Jakub Lauko’s job. Eight seconds earlier, Lauko drew an interference penalty on Aaron Ekblad by driving to the net.

The No. 4 left wing, a healthy scratch for seven straight games between Rounds 1 and 2, made his series debut and scored in Game 3 against the Panthers.

Bruins PK rebounds until Bennett goal

The Panthers were a combined 0-for-17 against the Bruins on the power play during the regular season and first two-plus games of this series until they erupted with four power-play goals in Game 3, including scoring on both halves of a double minor to turn a 1-0 lead to a 3-0 lead.

They reverted back to their previous ways Sunday. Or, better put, the Bruins rebounded. They killed five penalties in the game, including two key ones in the first period where Swayman made four stops. On the second Panthers power play, the Bruins actually outchanced the Panthers and made it 2-0 shortly thereafter on Carlo’s third goal of the playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, the success didn’t hold. The disputed Bennett goal was on the power play.

(Photo of Sam Bennett: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)

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