When Sergei Bobrovsky went down just two minutes into the Florida Panthers game in Montreal on Thursday, Alex Lyon was not caught off guard.
The 30-year-old journeyman goaltender was thrust into action and stopped the first 16 shots he faced and stopped 23 of 25 shots total in a 6-2 win over the Canadiens.
“I think experience goes a long way,” Lyon said.
”When you’re put in more of those situations, you’re more confident, you trust yourself and the things that make you good. You just stay in the moment and do the best you can. There isn’t a secret recipe.”
Lyon was tested right away upon entering the game.
The Panthers took a penalty just after Bobrovsky’s injury and Lyon found himself playing on the penalty kill as soon as he entered the game.
“Alex came in with a tough situation,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
”We throw you in on a power play right away. ‘Welcome to the game.’ But he made big saves and you have a great bench. They are playing hard for each other.”
Lyon’s first save of the night came 23 seconds after he was thrusted into the game and it was a beauty.
Montreal star Cole Caufield found himself all alone near the face-off circle and Lyon sprawled out, stacked the pads and robbed him.
That save became a rallying point for the team.
”’Lyon King’ came in there and stole the show a little bit to deny them on a few great chances,” Ryan Lomberg said. “That gave us some time to get the ball rolling.”
Lyon has made a living staying ready for situations like this and the Panthers witnessed that firsthand last season.
With the Carolina Hurricanes having 10 players on the COVID protocol list after the 2021 holiday break, the team called Lyon up to tell him they needed him to play a game.
He had to fly out from his hometown in Minnesota to Raleigh, N.C. on the day after Christmas and prepare himself for an NHL game after spending the bulk of the season with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
That game ended up getting postponed, but he found himself in the crease against the Panthers a few weeks later on Jan. 8 and stopped 32 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to the eventual Presidents’ Trophy winners.
“I feel like there is a reason why I excel in these situations and I take a lot of pride in being able to put in tough spots,” Lyon said.
”That’s kind of my role in the organization and where I have carved out my career. So I just have to stay on the same approach.”
Lyon has spent his career being a No. 3 goaltender, splitting time in the NHL and AHL over the past seven seasons with the Panthers, Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.
He has nearly 200 AHL games under his belt and has kept himself ready for NHL action when he has had to.
In 25 NHL appearances, Lyon is 7-7-3 with a .896/3.12.
”It’s impressive,” Lomberg said.
”Obviously somebody in that situation always has to be ready and it is a testament to the work he puts in day in and day out. There’s no surprise he got that result because he is always out there working hard.”
The Panthers are going to be leaning on Lyon a little more — at least for a little bit.
Sergei Bobrovsky appears to be out for Saturday night’s game and the Panthers made a move to call his AHL backup, Mack Guzda, up to the big squad to play behind him here for the time being.
Spencer Knight, who has been on injured reserve since Jan. 10, was sent to Charlotte for a conditioning stint.
As it stands, it appears Lyon will be get his first NHL start of the season against a very good Minnesota Wild team.
”You always like those gamers,” Maurice said.
”He is like ‘Just give me a chance, just give me a chance,’ and then they go in and get their chance and the guys rally around that.”
Lyon has been waiting for that chance for a while.
The Panthers called him up from AHL Charlotte when Knight was initially placed on IR and he sat on the bench to back up Bobrovsky through five games in nine days before he got his shot.
”It was awesome,” Lyon said of the opportunity at hand.
”There are all kinds of things that go a long with it in terms of contributing to the team and building credibility, but my approach remains the same.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
MINNESOTA WILD AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Minnesota leads 18-8-2, 1 tie
- Up Next for the Panthers: Monday at New York Rangers, 7 p.m.