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Late Knight in Vancouver: Florida Panthers win in shootout

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Sam Reinhart (13) scores the Florida Panthers’ lone goal off Vancouver goaltender Spencer Martin early in the third period of Florida’s eventual 2-1 shootout win on Friday night in British Columbia. — Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire

Late Night with the Cats went even later than expected Friday night — err, Saturday morning — as the host Vancouver Canucks gave the Florida Panthers all they could handle at Rogers Arena.

Vancouver led 1-0 after the first and second periods and the game was tied at 1 after 60 and 65 minutes of play.

Of course this game was going to a shootout.

Spencer Knight, as he had all evening, was up to the challenge.

Knight, Florida’s 20-year-old rookie netminder, gave up a goal on Vancouver’s first attempt but stopped the next two allowing Anton Lundell and Sasha Barkov to score and lead the Panthers to a 2-1 victory.

Florida has now won two consecutive games on this road trip heading into Seattle on Sunday night.

The Panthers also took sole possession of first place in the NHL thanks to their win and Tampa Bay losing in Anaheim.

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For Knight, who took the loss in a 5-1 defeat Tuesday in Calgary, Friday was just another night at the office.

”I thought it was a good win for the whole team, for all of us,” Knight said after making 27 saves, not including two in the shootout. “It was important that we all stuck it out, obviously it was a tough game to play being a back-to-back. Vancouver is a great team. They played really well.”

Vancouver, playing without its two NHL goalies as well as its leading scorer among others due to Covid, put up quite the fight.

The Canucks started Spencer Martin, who only had three NHL games under his belt and none since 2017, was fantastic in keeping the Panthers off the scoreboard.

Vancouver took a 1-0 lead late in the first and Martin held that all the way until the end.

He made 33 saves and took a tough loss.

The Canucks’ lone goal on Knight was not his fault as a couple odd bounces found the back of the net.

On Vancouver’s first power play chance, Quinn Hughes’ long shot was deflected twice — first by the stick of Tanner Pearson and then by the body of Alex Chiasson.

It remained 1-0 all the way until the opening minutes of the third when Sam Reinhart popped in a bouncing feed from Jonathan Huberdeau initially started by Anthony Duclair.

But, that was all Florida could get against Martin the rest of regulation despite throwing 12 shots his way in the third.

”I thought it was a mature road game, the second half of a back-to-back,” Andrew Brunette said. “Bruce (Boudreau) has his team playing hard and fast right now and they came after us. We did some good things.

“Halfway through the second period, we started feeling we were going again and had confidence in the third. We knew we would make a play. … Spencer allowed us a chance to get the extra point.”

Knight has had some bumps in the road in his true rookie season after signing with the Panthers out of Boston College — and making a fantastic debut — last spring.

The Panthers ended up sending Knight to Charlotte for a start in a move that may have just been to clear up a roster spot although they certainly want him to play more than he has been.

The strong play of Bobrovsky has allowed him to keep the net. Friday was a chance for Knight to shine a bit.

“It’s huge for his confidence, shows his resolve,” Brunette said. “It’s not that he played poorly, but he hasn’t gotten the results he would like. You need goaltending on the road and he was exceptional.”

GR’S THREE STARS OF THE NIGHT

1. Spencer Knight, Florida

2. Spencer Martin, Vancouver

3. Sam Reinhart, Florida

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FLORIDA PANTHERS AT SEATTLE KRAKEN

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