Lightning head coach Cooper calls Bennett hit on Coleman 'predatory'

Check this out, as Panthers' Sam Bennett gets 2 minutes for this questionable hit from behind on Lightning forward Blake Coleman.

Game 1 of the first-round series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers was playoff hockey at its finest, with both teams setting the tone for what’s going to be a fast-paced, high-scoring, physical affair.

There’s clearly no love lost between these cross-state rivals as they meet in the post-season for the first time league history, with plenty of skirmishes breaking out between plays.

During his post-game press conference after Tampa Bay’s 5-4 win, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said the heated exchanges and high emotions of the game were to be expected as the clubs both look to gain an edge and flex their own physicality.

There is, however, a line. And midway through the third period, Panthers forward Sam Bennett crossed it when he sent Lightning forward Blake Coleman flying into the boards from behind.

When asked about the infraction, and whether it warranted a stiffer penalty on the ice, Cooper called Bennett’s actions “predatory.”

“Oh, yeah. Predatory hit,” Cooper said. “I’ll let the league deal with that. But I was really happy that we scored on the power play on that one."

Coleman was in a defenceless position, up against the left-side boards in Panthers territory after making a backhand pass when he was slammed him into the boards. Coleman remained in the game, and Bennett was issued a two-minute charging penalty on the play. The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Monday morning that Bennett will have a hearing for the hit.

Brayden Point scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game at four goals apiece. Point then followed it up with the game-winner late in regulation to claim the 5-4 win.

“That was a tough one to watch,” Cooper said of the hit. “I’m just happy that Coleman’s OK.”

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