The Vancouver Canucks not only had a number of top players unavailable Friday night but also had a goalie who not started an NHL game since Tom Rowe was behind the Florida Panthers bench.
Did not bode well for the Canucks, one would have thought.
Yet Vancouver, playing its first home game in over a month due to Covid restrictions gave the high-flying — yet understandably winded — Panthers all they could handle in British Columbia.
At the end of the night (or morning, depending on where you were watching), the Panthers took a 2-1 win by virtue of the shootout.
Florida, down after Round 1, got goals from Anton Lundell and Sasha Barkov in the shootout to finally end this late-night marathon.
Spencer Knight, fresh off a game in which he got little support in front against Calgary, made 27 saves in 65 minutes of play.
Knight, as Sergei Bobrovsky was the night before, was terrific and helped the Panthers escape Rogers Arena with a win — and sole possession atop the NHL standings.
Spencer Martin, making just his fourth NHL start and first in five years, kept the Canucks in it throughout ending with 33 saves in a hard-luck loss.
Vancouver, hurting with a growing list of players on the Covid list, got a fluky goal with 3:32 left in the first and carried that 1-0 lead into the third.
The power play goal came after Vancouver killed off a very aggressive Florida run with the man advantage as Owen Tippett went the box after Vancouver stopped the Panthers.
Quinn Hughes’ long point shot was deflected twice — first by the stick of Tanner Pearson and then by the body of Alex Chiasson which was the difference as the puck went past Knight.
Florida ended up with a three-shot advantage after the first period but the two were tied at 18 going into the third.
The Panthers finally tied the score early in the third, getting a power play goal of their own on a nice shot from Sam Reinhart off 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.
Vancouver, as was the case with Tampa Bay last month, had two of its AHL goalies up as both NHL goalies were unavailable due to Covid.
Florida, one may remember, scored nine on those Tampa Bay goalies but had no such success Friday in Vancouver.
The Panthers were also playing the second of a back-to-back against the Lightning — the big difference being this game was on the road.
Florida’s game Friday was its third in four nights with the five-game road trip starting in Calgary on Tuesday night with the first game of the back-to-back Thursday in Edmonton.
The Panthers were without Sam Bennett, whom Andrew Brunette said sustained a minor injury on Thursday night.
Florida brought in Joe Thornton to play in his place with Eetu Luostarinen replacing Bennett on the second line.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE NIGHT
1. Spencer Knight, Florida
2. Spencer Martin, Vancouver
3. Sam Reinhart, Florida