Needing a spark to win Game 5 and stay alive in the NHL playoffs, the Florida Panthers swung big.
The Panthers went to rookie goaltender Spencer Knight. Knight, a first-round pick in 2019, turned just 20 years old on April 19. He had four career NHL games, with three starts. It was a big gamble, but the Panthers didn’t have much to lose.
It worked. Knight was great in a Game 5 win, saving 36-of-37 shots in a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Knight gave up a goal on the first shot he saw less than a minute into the game, and showed a lot of poise in settling down and shutting out the Lightning after that.
The Panthers as +125 underdogs at BetMGM for Game 6, and maybe they’ve found something with their goalie who is too young to legally drink.
There might be something to be said about the ignorance of youth. Having a rookie goaltender in the NHL playoffs get hot and carry a team isn’t unheard of. Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, Cam Ward, Antti Niemi, Matt Murray and Jordan Binnington all were rookies in goal for their respective teams during Stanley Cup championship runs. Playoff hockey is filled with big moments and a lot of stress, but for someone with three total regular-season starts, that pressure might not be the same. Maybe Knight doesn’t know any better.
Nobody is expecting Knight to take the Panthers to a Stanley Cup, but leading Florida to Game 7 would be nice. The Panthers were better than the Lightning in the regular season (79 points to 75) and went 5-2-1 against Tampa Bay in the regular season. It might not be fair to even consider the regular season — the Lightning are a proven playoff team and dealt with injuries during the season — but it’s not like Florida is overmatched by Tampa Bay.
Florida fell behind 3-1 in the series and turned to a rookie goaltender to save their season. He came through and here’s betting that momentum carries over to Game 6.
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