After Panthers forward Anthony Duclair scored the game’s opening goal 41 seconds into the contest, Bennett delivered a devastating hit on star Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin on the next shift. Slavin was slow to get up and initially tried to skate to the bench, but fell over and was taken to the locker room with the help of a trainer.
Sam Bennett with a hit behind the net on Jaccob Slavin
Slavin was escorted to the locker room by a trainer pic.twitter.com/qEaKDK52EL
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) May 25, 2023
No penalty was assessed on the hit, but Brent Burns, Jordan Martinook and Matthew Tkachuk were each assessed minor penalties after the whistle. It’s an unfortunate reality of the postseason and you never want to see players get injured, but Bennett delivered the hit legally.
Slavin was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game with what the team called an upper-body injury. The 29-year-old said after the game that he was doing okay and was eating pizza. Carolina head coach Rod Brind'Amour said Slavin likely suffered a concussion on the play.
Slavin is one of the NHL’s premier defensive defensemen and was on the ice for 15 goals for versus five against at 5-on-5 during the postseason, while the Hurricanes controlled nearly 59 percent of the expected goals at 5-on-5 when he was on the ice. He scored seven goals and added 20 assists in 76 regular-season contests.
It wasn't the first time Bennett found himself in the spotlight due to his physicality in these playoffs. During the Panthers’ second-round series, Bennett drew the ire of Toronto Maple Leafs fans after slamming Matthew Knies to the ice, with the 20-year-old suffering a season-ending concussion on the play.