Knight time: Rookie saves 36, Panthers top Lightning 4-1

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers entrusted their season to a rookie goalie making his playoff debut.

Spencer Knight delivered, in a huge way.

The 20-year-old Knight stopped 36 shots, MacKenzie Weegar had a goal and an assist, and the Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Monday night in Game 5 of their Central Division playoff series.

The Lightning still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 and host Game 6 on Wednesday night. But Knight — the third different goalie to start for Florida in this series — stymied the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

Mason Marchment and Patric Hornqvist scored for the Panthers, and Frank Vatrano added an empty-netter with 14.6 seconds left. Aleksander Barkov had a pair of assists.

Ross Colton had Tampa Bay’s goal, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 34 shots.

Knight was 4-0-0 after turning pro following his sophomore season at Boston College and signing with the Panthers. And following the struggles of Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger in the first four games of the series — they gave up a combined 19 goals — the Panthers began dropping hints on Sunday that it would be Knight’s turn, then let more clues emerge at Monday’s morning skate.

They didn’t officially announce Knight as the starter until pregame warmups began Monday. With the way he played, there might not even be a need to ask about who starts Game 6.

Knight stopped each of the last 36 shots he faced. And the roars from the season-high crowd got louder throughout the night.

It took the Lightning all of 53 seconds to get on the board, scoring on the first shot Knight saw. Blake Coleman got past Florida’s Keith Yandle and a sprawling Jonathan Huberdeau along the right-wing boards, waited for Knight to slide his direction and then tapped the puck back into the slot. Colton had nothing but net to shoot at, and just like that it was 1-0.

Things stayed that way until — for the second time this series — a football coach happened to go a little crazy.

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores got the crowd into a towel-waving frenzy in Game 2, and the Panthers quickly responded with a goal. Same thing happened in this one; Miami Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz waved his rally towel, the building got loud and then even louder when Weegar controlled the puck off a face-off and got one over Vasilevskiy’s left shoulder to tie the game with 13:41 left in the second.

And with 3:05 left in the period, Florida took the lead when Marchment — after Barkov went this way and that way behind the net, biding his time before throwing the puck in front — connected from the slot for a 2-1 edge.

Hornqvist deflected in Barkov’s shot from the high slot early in the third, the power-play tally making it 3-1 Florida.

Knight did the rest. He played an elimination game for Boston College two months ago, losing 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament before 1,134 fans in Albany, New York.

He beat the Stanley Cup champs 4-1 on Monday. His teammates, one by one, mobbed him when the final horn sounded. And Florida’s season lives on for Game 6.

UNDER PRESSURE

The Panthers improved to 4-6 all-time when facing elimination, including the one win it got to stave it off temporarily in last season’s play-in round against the New York Islanders. Tampa Bay is now 18-12 when it has a chance to close out a series.

YOUNG KNIGHT

Knight, at 20 years and 35 days, is believed to be the seventh-youngest goaltender to appear in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Harry Lumley was 18 in his first postseason game and Tom Barrasso, Bill Ranford, Grant Fuhr, Don Beaupre and Martin Brodeur all made their playoff debuts at 19 years old.

He’s the youngest goalie to make his playoff debut in an elimination game.

DOUBLING UP

Monday was a rarity for South Florida. It was only the fourth day with the Panthers and Miami Heat having postseason games on the same day. The others: March 17 and March 20, 2016; and this past Saturday.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.