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Quenn’s gambit pays off as Knight backstops Panthers to 4-1 win over Lightning

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Rookie netminder makes 36 saves in his postseason debut

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers - Game Five Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Spencer Knight gave the Florida Panthers the shot in the arm they needed, stopping 36 of 37 shots as the Florida Panthers lived to fight another day with an impressive 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5.

The Lightning scored on its first shot for the second game in a row to put the Cats in an early hole. After a defensive zone faceoff win, Ryan McDonagh sent Blake Coleman away and he chipped the puck off the boards at center and went by a stationary Keith Yandle with ease and then slipped a pretty pass under Brandon Montour’s stick for Ross Colton to finish off a mere 53 seconds in. Jonathan Huberdeau could’ve bailed out the statuesque Yandle, but instead, he fell down at the blue line, giving the Bolts a 2-on-1.

Knight would shrug off the early mishap by his more experienced teammates to wow the crowd with 21 saves to close out the period, keeping his outplayed club down by just a goal. Tampa Bay’s 22 shots in the opening period represented the most shots allowed in a period by the Panthers in either the regular season or postseason this year.

MacKenzie Weegar, who absolutely stunk up the ice during the first, notched his first career playoff goal with a wrist shot that soared over the shoulder of Andrei Vasilevskiy at the 6:19 mark of the second. Sam Bennett won the draw in the right circle and Huberdeau quickly dropped it to Weegar to even the score.

The Panthers forged ahead with 3:05 left in the frame thanks to some tight work from Mason Marchement and Aleksander Barkov. After Barkov missed a shot wide, Marchement dumped the puck back behind the net and headed to the slot. Barkov looked forehead and then went backhand to set up Marchment, who fired a shot past Vasilevskiy reaching glove.

Anthony Duclair drew on holding penalty on Luke Schenn with 59 second left in the period and the Panthers would make the Lightning pay early in third. After playing catch with Yandle, Barkov moved into the middle to one-time a cross for Huberdeau and the puck caromed in off the back of Patric Hornqvist to put the Cats up by two for the second time in the series.

Florida displayed some serious poise in clamping down on the LIghtning the rest of the way, limiting the Bolts to just six shots and making things relatively easy for their rookie netminder.

Frank Vatrano put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal at 19:45 from Hronqvist to complete the scoring and send the series back north to Tampa.

Hats off to Knight, who earned every superlative in the book for his amazing turn that netted him First Star honors. After a shaky first period, the Panthers played their best hockey of the series to earn this season-saving win the hard way, posting the first playoff victory at BB&T Center in over five years. With two assists apiece, stars Barkov and Huberdeau did their thing and the Cats got strong games from the likes of Marchment, Duclair, Vatrano and Lomberg to help keep the Lightning off theirs. On the negative side, that’s got to be it for Yandle. He cost the Panthers a goal, and it could’ve easily been three. The series the no one wants to see end gets another night on Wednesday. Can’t wait! Let’s get this thing tied up!

Shock & Awesome

  • Spencer Knight is the youngest Panthers goaltender (20 years, 35 days) to start a playoff game in franchise history, and the youngest goalie in NHL history to win a game in his postseason debut while facing elimination. Knight is the sixth-youngest goalie at the time of his first career start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He is the fifth-youngest goalie to win a playoff game, and the second-youngest goaltender to record a win in their playoff debut after Don Beaupre (19 years 202 days) of the then Minnesota North Stars.
  • Knight is the first goalie to play in the IIHF U20 World Junior Championship, NCAA tournament, and Stanley Cup Playoffs in the same season, and the youngest goalie to record at least 36 saves in their playoff debut. His 36 saves are the fourth-most by a goalie making their playoff debut before their 21st birthday.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau recorded his fourth multi-point performance of the series. His 10 points in the series is a franchise record for most points in a playoff series and leads the league. Huberdeau’s third consecutive multi-point playoff game tied Reilly Smith for the longest such run in club history.
  • MacKenzie Weegar, who finished with a game-high +3 rating, is the third Panthers defenseman to record multiple points in a game this series (Gustav Forsling and Radko Gudas, 1G/1A each, Game 3 in Tampa).
  • Mason Marchment is the first Panthers rookie to record multiple goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He led Florida’s forward brigade with seven hits.
  • Aleksander Barkov, who went 14 of 22 on draws, has logged at least one point in all five games of the series (1G/6A), and he has produced at least a point in each of Florida’s past eight postseason games.
  • Patric Hornqvist has amassed five points (2G/3A) over his past three games.
  • Radko Gudas and Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli each dished out ten hits.
  • For the other side of the Panthers huge win, pay a visit to Raw Charge.

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