Panthers’ Sam Bennett fined $5,000 for cross-checking Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting

Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett was fined $5,000, the maximum allowed by the CBA, for cross-checking Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting in Game 2 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The hit came in the second period with the Panthers leading 3-2. Bennett received a two-minute cross-check minor.
  • Maple Leafs rookie Matthew Knies had a hit from Bennett earlier in the game. Knies took a long time to get to his feet before returning to the bench and did not return after the first period. Bennett was not penalized on the play.
  • The Panthers won Game 2 by a score of 3-2 and now have a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida.

“I’m sure the cross-check on Bunting is eerily similar to the one we saw with Auston in the away game,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game, referring to the two-game suspension of Maple Leafs. ‘Auston Matthews in March 2022 to cross-check Buffalo Sabers defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. “We know how this one worked.”

Is Bennett punishment enough?

Matthew Knies might like a word on this fine. Even if you accept Bennett’s explanation for what happened behind the net on Thursday night — that Knies went for the hit and missed, causing a tangle — there are still plenty of unanswered questions.

Is there, for example, a medical or metaphysical explanation for how, once entangled, Bennett’s arm seemed to stay fixed around his young adversary’s head? Reasonable hockey observers can debate questions of intent, but the result was pretty clear.

“I think he tried to hit me and jumped out of the way,” Bennett said, in one of the few responses he provided after the game. “He was tied up in my arm there. That was pretty much it on that one.

He borders on contrition over the game which actually led to some form of discipline, but mostly, it seems, for the fact that he got caught cross-checking Bunting in the neck. (The extra shot to the back, when Bunting was down, was not included.)

“I mean, I can’t take that penalty there,” Bennett said after the game. “Go to his shoulder. I’m just trying to move it out of the way. He goes up and grabs her a bit. It’s the one I’d love to do again, that’s for sure.

According to CapFriendly, Bennett’s salary was $3.425 million this season. A fine of $5,000 would represent a penalty of 0.00145% of this figure. It’s not a punishment. It’s a quarter lost in the sofa cushions. — Fitz-Gerald

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(Photo: Dan Hamilton/USA Today)

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