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Knight Time, Again: Florida Panthers rookie goalie shines in Buffalo return



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Spencer Knight had a terrific return engagement with the Florida Panthers, stopping 28 shots in a 6-1 win over the host Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. — Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

The Florida Panthers gave Spencer Knight a shot in the crease after a month in the AHL and he delivered, stopping 28 shots to propel Florida to a 6-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

“He played unreal, the credit goes to him,” Anthony Duclair said. “He made a couple of really good saves and I’m happy to see him back for sure.

“I know when he went back to Charlotte he worked hard. He’s a very skilled and talented goalie and we’re just lucky to have him.”

Knight was sent to the Checkers during the All-Star break and stayed for a month not only due to a roster crunch but to get the rookie some quality starts and get into a rhythm.

Sergei Bobrovsky was also on a tear, so that did not help his case to get more playing time with the Panthers.

Knight played just four games from the start of January to the All-Star break, going 2-2-0 with a .907/2.73.

Bobrovsky, meanwhile, was rolling by leading the NHL in wins during that span with a 10-1-1 record and a .924/2.65.

“I think at his age, to play is probably the most important thing,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said.

“With the way Bob was going for a while, it was hard for him to get into games. I thought it was important he got into game-like situations and it’s good for a young player to kinda earn it a little bit.”

The 20-year-old played in nine games in his first — and perhaps, final — long stint in the AHL.

Knight went 7-2 in those games, recorded two shutouts and gave up two goals or fewer in six games.

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“He left with a great attitude and he had some great outings down there,” Brunette said.

“We all know how good he is, he is as good as a goalie can be at his age and we’re just making sure he continues to evolve the right way.”

With a back-to-back on deck and a roster spot opened up with Ryan Lomberg on injured reserve, Knight got his chance to play at the NHL.

He took the ball and ran with it.

Florida needed Knight to come through early, being outshot 11-3 in the first period.

He stopped all 11 of Buffalo’s shots.

“I thought his timing on everything was impeccable and it was good to see,” Brunette said.

“He has been in situations where we have not been on top of our game. Tonight was one of them and he bailed us out.”

However, it was Florida who went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead after losing Anton Lundell to a left leg injury — the severity of which is not immediately known.

“He’s kind of day-to-day with a lower body. We’ll reevaluate tomorrow morning,” Brunette said. “I have no idea, I’m not a doctor so it’s tough for me to evaluate. I think it’s not serious, but we’ll see.”

Brandon Montour received a feed from Sasha Barkov and found the back of the net 5:22 into the first to give the Panthers the early lead.

“I don’t think we had enough shots on net in the first and I don’t think we had enough action in front of the net,” Montour said.

“We wanted to come into the second there and throw some traffic at them and kind of get in the game in the second.”

They did that and more in the middle frame, scoring four goals.

Noel Acciari put Florida up by two 5:22 into the second when he drove in on Anderson and rifled a shot off the far post for his first goal of the season after missing most of the season due to a injury sustained in the preseason.

Less than two minutes later, Florida cashed in on a power play chance when Barkov found Anthony Duclair at 7:39.

From there, the Panthers just kept on coming; first, Carter Verhaeghe tapped in a nice feed from Marchment then Patric Hornqvist put the Panthers up 5-0 a minute later.

Knight kept the Sabres off the board in the meantime, stopping all 18 shots he faced up to that point.

A Barkov power play goal, courtesy of a dish by Jonathan Huberdeau, put the game on ice with 6:50 to go.

John Hayden spoiled Knight’s shutout bid, tipping a Rasmus Asplund shot with 6:18 to go.

“We know how he plays, he’s just so calm back there and he makes some big saves,” Montour said. “That was a tough one there at the end, kind of a fluky one.”



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