On the same day he received a $25,000 fine for criticizing officials, Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice was given another reason to gripe.
This time around, Panthers forward Eric Staal was shaken up by a crushing reverse hit by Montreal Canadiens defenceman Mike Matheson during the first period of Thursday's game. Adding insult to injury, Matheson did not receive a penalty for what easily could’ve been deemed interference.
The Panthers later announced that Staal, 38, would not return to the game. Officially, the team described it as an upper-body injury.
No penalty, but discipline still given
Matheson avoided punishment in real time but the NHL still managed to come down on him. He was given a $5,000 fine for interference on Friday, which is the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement.
Matheson, 28, has received one suspension so far during his NHL career. Back in 2018, the league banned him for two games for slamming Vancouver Canucks centre Elias Pettersson to the ice.
Eric Staal battling to keep NHL career alive
Over a lengthy NHL career of 1,333 regular-season and 83 playoff contests, Staal has suffered at least one concussion. Back in 2017, he suffered such an injury crashing head-first into the boards.
Despite winning a Stanley Cup, making six All-Star games, and authoring multiple 40-goal seasons, Staal’s been willing to grind to keep his NHL career alive. He didn’t play in the league at all in 2021-22, instead captaining Canada at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Only after impressing at training camp on a PTO did Staal cement a spot with this season’s Panthers.
Among a season of disappointments for Florida, it’s nonetheless impressive that Staal’s managed to suit up for 40 games, collecting seven goals and seven assists for 14 points. Ideally, the veteran forward will bounce back from that hard hit by Matheson.
And, ideally for Maurice’s wallet, he’ll let that perceived missed call go.
Sergei Bobrovsky also injured in penalty-filled Panthers win
In the grand scheme of things, missed calls weren’t the story of this game, and Staal doesn’t necessarily stand as the most noteworthy injury.
Early in an eventual 6-2 Panthers win, Sergei Bobrovsky tweaked something during a routine-looking play. It’s unclear how serious the issue might be, but Bobrovsky did not return:
In Bobrovsky’s absence, Alex Lyon made 23 out of 25 saves, including this sprawling beauty:
Big picture, this was a penalty-filled affair, even beyond Matthew Tkachuk fighting to avenge Staal.
The Panthers scored four power-play goals on eight opportunities, while the Canadiens couldn’t convert on five of their own. Florida scored all four of those power-play goals in the second period, tying a franchise record and making life easier for Lyon.
In the past four games, the Panthers have scored at least four goals, and earned three wins, raising hopes for a playoff push.
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