The Tampa Bay Lightning got Game 5 started exactly the way it wanted, scoring on a 2-on-1 less than a minute into its playoff game with the Florida Panthers.
With a 20-year-old rookie in net and holding a 3-1 series lead, things looked real good for the defending champion Lightning.
Only the Panthers were not going out that easy.
Spencer Knight, making his NHL playoff debut in net for the homestanding Panthers, looked like a cagey veteran as he stopped the next 36 shots he faced and Florida found some room against Andrei Vasilevskiy to win 4-1 at BB&T Center.
”I approached it like every other hockey game,’’ Knight said. “I was a little nervous then I just remembered I was playing hockey, got in control again and had fun.”
Sasha Barkov, who had two points in the win, summed up Knight’s night: “He won the game for us.”
Said Joel Quenneville: “He was great. That was a goalie win. He did everything he could do to keep him in. I’m happy for him.”
Florida, facing a do-or-die situation against the Lightning, answered the call and extended its season.
The Panthers live to fight another day.
The best-of-7 series heads back to Tampa for Game 6 on Wednesday night with the Lightning holding a 3-2 series lead. The Lightning are 10-0 in series of which it held a 3-1 series lead.
So, the Panthers are still on the brink of elimination.
But they’re still around.
And Knight, now with five wins in five NHL starts, gets to play his first postseason road game on Wednesday.
Not only the youngest goalie to ever make his debut in an elimination game, Knight is the second-youngest to get a win in his debut.
”It was awesome,” Barkov said, “awesome atmosphere, awesome feeling. We were excited to play and got a good result. We’re excited to be going to Tampa right now.”