Controversial Goalie-Interference Call Covers Up Reality of Bruins Being Overmatched

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 12: Sam Bennett #9 of the Florida Panthers celebrates his third-period goal against the Boston Bruins in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the TD Garden on May 12, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

The only thing missing from this Bruins vs. Panthers Round 2 series heading into Game 4 Sunday was a game-altering goalie interference call. Or in Sunday night’s case, a non-call.

Leave it to Florida forward Sam Bennett, who took Bruins captain Brad Marchand out of the lineup with a controversial hit in Game 3, to capitalize on an equally controversial third-period equalizer to provide the drama.

Bennett’s team went on to win Game 4 3-2 and own a 3-1 series lead heading back to Florida. As the TD Garden crowd chanting “shoot the puck” would tell you, the Bruins’ demise was more about their own game and their 41-18 shot deficit. But it was the only game of the series decided by fewer than four goals, and the officials decided this one would stand to tie it up for the Panthers:

B/R Open Ice @BR_OpenIce



Via Rule 69.1, the NHL rulebook states that “if a defending player had 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.”

“The fact is that Coyle was pushed into me. I couldn’t play my position. So that’s that,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “In the moment I didn’t know what exactly happened. I just know I couldn’t play my position. And the review showed that.”

The Bruins challenged for goaltender interference, and the home crowd went wild when it thought the referee was going to say “no goal.” Instead, he said “No goaltender interference,” leaving the entire arena stunned.

“We thought that (Charlie) Coyle was on top of our goaltender,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said, adding that the call came from the NHL situation room in Toronto, not the on-ice officials. “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.”

Boston Bruins @NHLBruins

🎥 Coach Montgomery, Charlie Coyle, David Pastrnak, and Jeremy Swayman react following the #NHLBruins Game 4 loss to the Panthers:

“I’m falling over all the way if I don’t hit Swayman,” Coyle added. “There’s no way he can get there. I hit him. If I don’t hit him, I’m falling.”

The Panthers didn’t score on the power play resulting from the failed Bruins challenge, but Aleksander Barkov coughed up the game-winner 3:50 after Bennett’s goal. Barkov’s got five goals and 11 points in five games in what has been his best career postseason thus far.

“I mean, I think they got the right call,” Bennett said. “I think by the time I’m putting that puck in, it’s before Swayman is going to be able to get over there, whether Coyle was on him or not.”

B/R Open Ice @BR_OpenIce

Sam Bennett shares his side of the Marchand hit AND the game-tying goal with the @NHL_On_TNT boys 🗣️

We agree about four things here, right?

1. These are the words of a man who knows he got at least a little bit lucky in this situation.

2. His second sentence is not incorrect.

3. It shouldn’t matter if his second sentence is valid — the rule needs to be consistent, whatever we decide the rule is.

4. The Panthers were likely to win this one regardless of the above.

You see, despite the Bruins’ early 2-0 lead and another epic effort in net from Jeremy Swayman, they still failed to bring the sustained offensive zone pressure juice tonight. The Bruins’ lack of pressure was reflected in the glaring and somehow growing shot deficit. Slow starts have been the only rollover attribute of this entire series. (Unless you count the nastiness and drama that has also found its’ way off the ice and into the quotes.)

Micah Blake McCurdy @IneffectiveMath

Bruins have considerably more problems than just the officials.

Analyst Micah Blake McCurdy breaks down the nuances well with his postgame expected goal data. Sure, the game has been much closer at even strength alone, but if these playoffs have shown us anything, they’ve shown us you have to be good at everything — especially the power play — to win. You certainly cannot disappear from the offensive zone in the baffling way the Bruins have throughout this series.

Two things are true as Boston heads to Florida on the brink of elimination:

1. Goaltender interference remains just as much of a crapshoot as ever.

2. A Bruins team that deserved to win would’ve won regardless.

And while it’s unfortunate that the Bruins may have had Game 4 change on a dime due to a controversial call that’s a coin flip and lost Marchand due to a bad hit that now looks like it should have been punished more severely, the reality is that they’re not as good as the Panthers in this series.

B/R Open Ice @BR_OpenIce

This alternate angle of the Bennett hit on Marchand from Game 3 😳 @NHL_on_TNT

You can’t be held under 20 shots per game and expect to beat a team like Florida.

Could Boston pull the reverse uno card trick of beating the Panthers after falling behind 3-1 in the series? It’s possible.

But the evidence through four games in this series points in the other direction.

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