Matt Benning's skirmish headlines physical start to Predators-Hurricanes series

Nick Gray
Nashville Tennessean

The term "playoff whistle" has not been used yet for the Nashville Predators' series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

In Games 1 and 2, the two teams have combined for 27 penalties and 70 penalty minutes. And many of the penalties have included players on each team getting their money's worth.

Game 2 saw Preds forward Erik Haula get called for roughing in the opening minutes for scrapping after one of the first whistles of the game. Canes captain Jordan Staal eventually got popped for a takedown later in the period, one of four Carolina penalties in the opening 20 minutes on Wednesday.

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But the main event was in the second period, when Predators defenseman Matt Benning showed the world his UFC skills with a takedown and a ground-and-pound of Carolina forward Jordan Martinook.

All that was missing was a Herb Dean stoppage.

Both players went to the penalty box for two-minute roughing minors, and were together again soon thereafter. Martinook cross-checked Benning into the boards during each player's first shift out of the box. Despite the worn-down track to the sin bin, Martinook did not get penalized.

The CNBC broadcast mentioned late in Game 2 that it was the first time this season that the Hurricanes had to kill off at least seven penalties in a game, and the first time this season that the Predators had seven power plays. All seven, for what it's worth, were killed off by Carolina.

It's not been just penalties, either. The Predators and Hurricanes combined for 115 hits in Game 1 and 72 hits through two periods in Game 2.

The Predators wanted the physical play. John Hynes mentioned "relentless checking" before Game 1 and was happy with the physicality after Monday's game, a 5-2 Nashville loss. That physicality continued on Wednesday.

Between the hits, after-whistle jousting and the general disdain between two clubs who played eight times in the regular season, fans do not need a playoff whistle to know that this is playoff hockey.