NHL Wednesday CNBC Preview: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning.
Florida held off elimination for at least another two days with their 4-1 upset victory at home against the Lightning in the fifth game of their Central Division series. Tampa Bay holds a 3-2 series lead going into the sixth game on Wednesday on CNBC, with the puck dropping at 8:08 PM ET.
The Lightning opened the scoring just 53 seconds into the game with Ross Colton’s goal. The Panthers evened the score 6:53 minutes into the second period on MacKenzie Weegar’s goal. Mason Marchment gave Florida a 2-1 lead with his goal at the 16:55 mark of the second period. Patric Hornqvist added a power-play goal 35 seconds into the third period. Frank Vatrano added an empty netter in the final 15 seconds of the game.
The story going into Monday’s game was the decision of Panthers’ head coach Joel Quenneville to turn to rookie Spencer Knight as the team’s starting goaltender. It was the first time in NHL history that a goalie made his playoff debut in an elimination game. Knight responded by stopping 36 of the 37 shots he faced in the win.
Quenneville felt he needed to make the desperate move to Knight after Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger has given up ten and eight goals, respectively, in the first four games of the series. Bobrovsky has a 5.33 goals-against-average and a .841 save percentage in this series. Driedger has not been much better with a 3.70 goals-against-average and a .871 save percentage.
Knight was playing college hockey for Boston College in March. The 20-year-old led the United States to the World Junior Championship earlier this year, highlighted by a shutout victory against Canada in the Gold Medal game. In four regular-season starts this season, Knight posted a 4-0-0 record, with a 2.32 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage.
Jonathan Huberdeau leads the team with 10 points in this series, coming from two goals and eight assists. Aleksander Barkov has seven points from two goals and five assists. Hornqvist and Sam Bennett both have five points.
Tampa Bay was 4-2 in their six opportunities to end a playoff series last year in the championship run. Andrei Vasilevskiy had a .938 save percentage in those games. He stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced on Monday. Vasilevskiy has a 3.16 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage in this series.
Nikita Kucherov leads the Lighting with nine points in the series coming from three goals and six assists. Alex Killorn has three goals and four assists. Victor Hedman has added seven assists.
Tampa Bay won the first two games of this series on the road by 5-4 and 3-1 scores. Florida upset the Lighting on the road, 6-5, in the third game before losing the fourth game by a 6-2 score on Saturday.
The series moves back to Tampa Bay’s Amalie Arena for the sixth game. BetAnySports lists the Lightning as a -140 money line favorite with the total set at 6.
Computer Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning 6 Florida Panthers 1