Marchand talks Bennett hit. And could Panthers lineups changes be coming in Game 6 vs Bruins?

Boston Bruins captain Brad Marchand on Thursday spoke to reporters for the first time since taking a controversial hit from Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett in Game 3 of the teams’ best-of-7 second-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

It’s safe to say Marchand wasn’t happy with how things went down.

“He plays hard. He’s an extremely physical player. Great player for the group. I think he got away with a shot, but I’m not gonna complain. [Stuff] happens,” Marchand told reporters in Boston. “That’s part of playoff hockey. I’ve been on the other side of a lot of plays. I think you can get away with one, but that’s part of the game and definitely part of playoff hockey. It sucks to be on the other side of it, but that stuff happens. I’m not going to sit here and complain about it because it’s part of the game, but yeah, I think he got away with one.”

In the opening minutes of that game, Bennett collided on the boards with Marchand in the neutral zone at the benches. As Bennett braced himself for a hit from Marchand, he swung a right hook at the Bruins captain, who ultimately left that game after two periods and did not play in Games 4 or 5 of the best-of-7 series.

Bennett has said the collision wasn’t intentional.

“It’s one of those plays where he’s coming to hit me,” Bennett said after Florida’s Game 4 win against Boston. “I’m trying to brace myself. There’s no way I would have had time to think about punching him in the face like everyone said, but people can have their opinions. I know it definitely wasn’t intentional. I’m bracing myself as he’s coming to hit me, and it’s unfortunate that he got hit. Obviously, he’s a heck of a player and a big part of that team. So it’s unfortunate, but by no means was that an intentional punch in the face.”

Lineup changes coming?

The Panthers could be shaking up their lineup when they face the Bruins on Friday in Game 6 of their second-round Stanley Cup playoffs series.

Panthers coach Paul Maurice said after practice Thursday that Florida’s lineup will be “close to” the same as the one he rolled out in the team’s 2-1 loss in Game 5 on Tuesday but opened the door for changes.

If changes do come, it will be with the wingers on Florida’s fourth forward line, considering Florida’s other 10 forwards are all involved on at least one of the Panthers’ special teams units.

In Thursday’s practice, Maurice had Ryan Lomberg, Jonah Gadjovich and Nick Cousins — all of whom have been healthy scratches — playing on the wings of that line with Kevin Stenlund at center.

Kyle Okposo and Steven Lorentz, who have been regulars on the fourth line during the postseason, filled in for a pair of absent teammates — Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett. Normally, Maurice uses players who will be scratches for games to fill in for missing players if he anticipates those absent players will be in the game. Maurice said Reinhart and Bennett are both expected to play on Friday.

So this opens the door for as many as two of Lomberg, Gadjovich and Cousins to draw into the lineup on Friday as Florida tries to close out the series against Boston. The Panthers lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.

Lomberg played in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning before an illness took him out of the lineup, replaced by Lorentz. Cousins played in all of the Lightning series and the first two games of the Bruins series before being scratched in Game 3 when Sam Bennett returned from a hand/wrist injury. Gadjovich has not yet played in the playoffs.

Special teams

The Panthers’ two special teams units have performed almost on opposite ends of the spectrum in the Bruins series.

The good: Florida’s penalty kill unit has been nearly perfect, holding Boston’s power play to just one goal in 14 opportunities (a 92.9 percent success rate) while also scoring a shorthanded goal.

“Our PK is just dialed in,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “We’ve watched a lot of video. We learned a lot about their power play and obviously playing against Tampa in the first round, they have an elite power play as well. It helps to learn how to play like that. ... But Boston has a really good power play, both units, so you’ve got to be on your toes every second.”

The power play, on the other hand? That hasn’t been as successful outside of a four-goal outburst in Game 3.

Overall, Florida is 6 for 25 on the power play against Boston, but just 2 for 19 when removing the success from Game 3.