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Spencer Knight has bounceback game and Panthers overcome sluggish start to rout Devils

Jordan McPherson, Miami Herald on

Published in Hockey

SUNRISE, Fla. — It had been nine days since Spencer Knight last defended the net in a live game. Nine days to reflect on an outing in which he gave up a career-worst six goals against the very team he was set to face again in his first game back as the starting goaltender for the Florida Panthers.

“He was put in a tough situation,” interim coach Andrew Brunette said pregame. “Young kid. I think he learned a lot and he’ll be ready to go.”

And that he was.

Knight made a career-high 45 saves — including 21 of 22 shots that came his way in a flurry of a first period — and the Panthers’ offense came to life after a sluggish first 20 minutes in a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday at FLA Live Arena. The Panthers (12-2-3) have won back-to-back games to start this homestand and are a perfect 9-0-0 at FLA Live Arena so far this season.

And they can look to their 20-year-old goaltender for keeping the game within reach in the first period.

The Devils (7-5-3) had a 22-13 edge in shots on goal and a 15-9 advantage in scoring chances in the opening period. They commanded the puck and limited Florida’s usually high-octane offense from generating its usual pressure.

 

Knight, meanwhile, stopped the first 17 shots he faced — highlighted by sprawling out to deflect a Tomas Tatar shot that hit the crossbar six minutes in and leaping for a glove save on a P.K. Subban slap shot a couple minutes later — before the Devils got on the scoreboard for the first and only time.

Dougie Hamilton’s wrist shot from the right circle bounced off Knight’s glove and the crossbar and ended in the net to open scoring with 6:23 left in the first period.

He didn’t let another shot get past him the rest of the night, looking more like the goaltender of the future the Panthers envision him being.

Florida’s offense responded by giving him more than enough support after its slow start.

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