Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn watched from the penalty box as Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk‘s shot floated into the net at 6:34 of overtime to win Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
His teammates believe he shouldn’t have been in the box at all.
“That’s a hockey play. That’s what I saw,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said of the controversial tripping call on Benn in overtime.
The Stars’ 5-4 loss on Friday in Edmonton, Alberta, gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead in the series, with a chance to win the Cup on Saturday in Game 5.
Benn was whistled for tripping Tyler Johnson of the Lightning at 5:10 of overtime. They battled for the puck, and Benn, who has 4 inches of height and 22 pounds on Johnson, sent him to the ice. Referee Francis Charron, who was behind the play, seemed to indicate that Benn kicked the skates out from Johnson.
“The ref’s got a tough job. I see it. It’s in front of [referee] Kelly [Sutherland]. He’s got a great look at it. The back ref calls it,” Stars center Joe Pavelski said. “I don’t have a ton of time for a play where Tyler Johnson steps in front of Jamie Benn, and [it] has no real effect on the play. Jamie breathes on him, and the guy falls over. Whether that’s the case or not, there’s a little battle going on there. But it’s the playoffs. It’s overtime. We expect 5-on-5. We expect to battle it out. It’s unfortunate.”
Bowness agreed with Pavelski. He didn’t see a penalty and said it wasn’t the kind of call he expected to be made in overtime.
“I saw two guys going for the loose puck,” he said. “One of their guys hooking our guy. Our guy trying to fight through the hook. It was two guys going for a loose puck. That’s a hockey play. That’s what I saw. I looked at the replay a few times. It’s two guys, in the playoffs, and you’re going for a loose puck. And they’re hooking us, and we’re fighting through the hook. That’s what I saw.
“The players want to dictate the end of the game, and they’re right,” Bowness said. “They want to play 5-on-5, and let’s see what happens here. And the players are right: Let them decide the game.”
The Stars had a chance to win Game 4 in overtime as the beneficiaries of a controversial call. At the end of regulation, Dallas forward Corey Perry lodged his stick in the crotch of Tampa Bay center Brayden Point in the neutral zone. Point crumpled to the ice with 29 seconds left in the third period. The officials gave Perry two minutes for interference and gave Point two minutes for embellishment. Then Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev took a holding penalty 37 seconds into overtime to give Dallas a 4-on-3 power play for 53 seconds.
The Stars failed to convert on it.
“I’m not sure we felt there should have been [matching calls] at the end of regulation there,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We deserved to kill that off.”
Bowness said the Stars “have to put that puck in the net” in that situation.
“Our power play had a chance to end the game,” he said. “They didn’t get it done.”
The Lightning continued to tilt the series on special teams. They’ve given up only one power-play goal to the Stars in the series, killing 13 of 14 man advantages. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has been torrid on the power play: The overtime goal means the Lightning have scored on six of their past 12 man advantages.
Game 5 is Saturday, with the Stanley Cup on the line for Tampa. It was a critical loss for Dallas, as teams that take a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final have won the Cup 33 of 34 times since the best-of-seven format began in 1939.