Jacksonville Sports Day

Knight Wins NHL Playoff Debut for Panthers Against Lightning in Game 5

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Spencer Knight won his Stanley Cup Playoff debut, helping the Florida Panthers to a 4-1 home victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup First Round on Monday.

Knight made 36 saves, and Florida avoided elimination in the best-of-7 series. Game 6 is at Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old rookie started after being scratched for the first four games of the series. He had his own net for the morning skate Monday and for part of Panthers practice Sunday, an indication he might be the starter.

Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger, who shared the other net, have started two games each in the series.

Florida, the No. 2 seed in the Discover Central Division, trails Tampa Bay, the No. 3 seed, 3-1 in the best-of-7 series.

“I think that goaltending in this series, everybody has had some good and bad, and with Spencer I think he gives you an option, something to consider,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday. “I think his track record earned him that consideration.”

Knight was 4-0-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in four games (three starts) in the regular season after signing a three-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers on March 31.

“With Spencer, just watching him a little bit when he’s not looking, he just seems like a professional already at a young age,” Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said. “It’s weird because he’s already got the routine down, everything is already so elite and so high-level that when he gets in the net you trust him already. If he does get a chance to play, I can’t wait to play in front of him. I think he’s a great goalie. He’s a great guy. “

Florida selected Knight in the first round (No. 13) of the 2019 NHL Draft. He was 16-4-1 with a 2.18 GAA and .932 save percentage as a sophomore at Boston College this season.

Knight also helped the United States finish first at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, making 34 saves in a 2-0 win against Canada in the championship game. He finished with five wins, a 1.63 GAA, a .939 save percentage and three shutouts, which tied a tournament record.

“I don’t want to get too involved with it, but I know that he’s been on big stages before,” Quenneville said.

Bobrovsky started Game 4 on Saturday. He allowed five goals on 14 shots and was relieved by Driedger with the Panthers down 5-1 at 7:15 of the second period. The Panthers lost 6-2.

Driedger started Game 3 and was relieved by Bobrovsky after allowing five goals on 12 shots in the second period. Bobrovsky did not allow a goal on nine shots, and the Panthers came back from two goals down to win 6-5 in overtime.

Driedger also started Game 2 and made 26 saves in a 3-1 loss. Bobrovsky allowed five goals in a 5-4 loss in Game 1.

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