Knight delivered a big bounce-back performance after giving up six goals on 30 shots in a 7-3 loss to the Devils last week. The 20-year-old entered the game on a two-game losing streak.
After Knight stopped the first 16 New Jersey shots, Dougie Hamilton, who did not play in that first meeting, opened the scoring 13;37 into the first when he cruised down into right circle to take a pass from Jimmy Vesey and fired a shot off the goalie’s upper arm, the post and in. P.K. Subban drew the secondary assist on the goal. Ryan Lomberg looked lost defensively on the play.
The out-played Panthers were able to strike back with seven seconds left in the frame. MacKenzie Weegar passed off to Carter Verhaeghe in the Florida zone with time running. Verhaheghe built up speed coming up the left side unimpended before solving MacKenzie Blackwood’s glove with a deadly wrister from just above the left circle that clipped the far post and then found twine.
Florida turned the tables on the Devils in the second period. After getting out-shot 22-13 in the first, the Cats peppered New Jersey with 20 shots and turned on the red light thrice.
The hard-working fourth line would put the Panthers on top at the 3:08 mark. Patric Hornqvist won a battle below the goal line, got the puck in front to Lomberg, who knocked it over Eetu Luostarinen, who managed to steer it under Blackwood’s pad on the backhand. That’s six goals now for Luostarinen, who is really coming into his own.
Jonathan Huberdeau added to the lead 1:17 later when he got behind the Devils defense to receive a cross-ice pass from Anthony Duclair at the blue line, moved into the right circle and drove a wrist shot by Blackwood’s glove. That’s goals in three straight games for Huberdeau.
The lead would grow to three at 8:15 when Huberdeau returned the favor to Duclair. Stationed near the right boards, Huberdeau’s centering pass skipped off a frustrated Subban and ended up on The Duke’s blade and he buried it to pull into a tie with injured Aleksander Barkov for the team goal-scoring lead with nine. Aaron Ekblad got the puck down low to Huberdeau to collect the secondary helper. Blackwood departed the game at this point and veteran Jonathan Bernier come on in relief.
That was all she wrote for the scoring. Knight turned awat all 10 shots he faced in the second and went on to make 14 more saves in the third to hold the Devils at bay. The Cats have won two in a row and have posted points in four straight games. A bumpy start, but Knight’s First Star effort and a strong second period that saw the Panthers offense put up three goals in a torrid 5:07 span to chase Blackwood were more than enough to get the team two points in its first game since losing Barkov for an extended period. The Cats will host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.
Fire & Brimstone
- The Panthers (9-0-0) are off to the best start on home ice in franchise history. Last night’s win pushed them past the 2017-18 edition, who started 8-0-0. Florida has outscored its opponents 43-18 and posted at least four goals in each of the nine games
- More on the streak... It’s tied for fourth-longest in NHL history and the longest since the 2016-17 Montreal Canadiens started 10-0-0 at home. The league record is 11, set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks.
- Sam Bennett didn’t score, but he did the lead the Cats with five shots on goal and six hits. Bennett played 17:17 and finished the tilt with a +2 rating, as did his linemates Huberdeau and Duclair.
- A couple of milestones on the New Jersey side. Damon Severson played his 500th career game while 22-year-old Fabian Zetterlund made his NHL debut.
- Spencer Knight’s 45 saves established a new career-high for the rookie from Boston College. Knight is now 5-2-1 with a 2.98 GAA and .904 save percentage.
- Hats off to Jonathan Bernier, who put out the fire with Florida red-hot. Bernier stopped all 16 shots he faced. MacKenzie Blackwood surrendered four goals on 27 shots.
- The two teams combined to go 0 for 5 on the power play. The Devils had three chances to the Panthers two.
- For more on Game Two of the season series, descend to All About The Jersey.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)