3 Keys: Panthers at Lightning, Game 6 of first round

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No. 2 Panthers at No. 3 Lightning

8 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN360, TVAS2, BSSUN, BSFL

Tampa Bay leads best-of-7 series, 3-2
 

Spencer Knight will try to help the Florida Panthers avoid elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight game when he starts Game 6 of the Stanley Cup First Round against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old rookie goalie made his professional postseason debut in Game 5 on Monday, making 36 saves in a 4-1 win at BB&T Center that kept the Panthers alive in the series.

“Putting him on that stage, in that environment, handled it like he’s been there before and done that before,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “So commend him and, hey, here he is again.”

The Lightning weren’t happy with their performance in Game 5, with players suggesting their compete level was not high enough to win a playoff game.

They addressed that as a team Tuesday, defenseman Victor Hedman said, and plan to be hungrier in Game 6, especially around the net to cause Knight some difficulty.

“We have to make it harder on him, that’s the bottom line,” Hedman said. “I think he saw too many pucks and our shots weren’t good enough. … We know he’s a big talent. We have to be more desperate in front of the net and take his eyes away.”

Teams that hold a 3-2 lead in a best-of-7 series are 324-87 (.788) winning the series, including 8-0 last season.

The Lightning were 2-0 in such instances last season, with series-clinching Game 6 wins against the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final and the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Final.

Here are 3 keys to Game 6:

 

1. Knight’s encore

Knight delivered in a big way in Game 5, stabilizing Florida’s goaltending after Chris Driedger and Sergei Bobrovsky were pulled in the previous two games. 

After giving up a goal by forward Ross Colton 53 seconds into the first period, Knight didn’t allow another, anticipating shots, controlling rebounds and moving fluidly in the crease.

The Panthers might need a similar performance to extend this series to Game 7.

“The calmness and the attitude he has in net he brings to us players on the ice too,” Florida forward Patric Hornqvist said. “It’s fun to see and it’s going to be fun to see here again tonight.”

 

2. Lightning’s discipline

Tampa Bay’s power play was a big story through the first four games, going 7-for-15. The number of power plays the Lightning had to kill was a big story in Game 5.

Tampa Bay gave Florida five power-play chances in Game 5 and allowed one goal on the man-advantage. But the timing of the power plays was a problem;. Three came in a span of 7:43 in the first period after the Lightning had a 1-0 lead, and another at 19:01 of the second.

Tampa Bay killed off the three in the first, but Hornqvist scored on the power play 35 seconds into the third period to put Florida ahead 3-1.

“We can’t control the officiating but we can control ourselves,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s been a message that we’ve been trying to get across to our players. A lot of times it’s an experience thing and you’re like, ‘Holy cow, we’ve got to stop taking penalties.'”

 

3. Get the puck to Huberdeau

Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau leads all playoff scorers with 10 points (two goals, eight assists), including two assists in Game 5. He has three straight multipoint games after scoring three points (one goal, two assists) in Game 1.

Huberdeau has points on five of Florida’s six power-play goals (one goal, four assists). He’s also scored five points (one goal, four assists) at even strength skating on a line with Sam Bennett and Owen Tippett. He was held without a point in Game 2, when Bennett didn’t play because he was suspended.

“His patient level with the puck and play recognition and some of the passes he makes really alleviate a lot of the scrums,” Quenneville said. “He’s finding pucks, coming up with loose pucks, positionally aware. The line has been dangerous and the power play has really been effective.”

 

Panthers projected lineup

Carter VerhaegheAleksander BarkovMason Marchment

Jonathan Huberdeau — Sam Bennett — Owen Tippett

Frank VatranoAlex Wennberg — Patric Hornqvist

Ryan LombergNoel AcciariAnthony Duclair

Anton StralmanMacKenzie Weegar

Markus NutivaaraBrandon Montour

Gustav ForslingRadko Gudas

Spencer Knight

Chris Driedger

Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Sergei Bobrovsky, Noah Juulsen, Nikita Gusev, Juho Lammikko, Keith Yandle, Eetu Luostarinen, Lucas Wallmark, Aleksi Heponiemi, Grigori Denisenko, Sam Montembeault, Philippe Desrosiers, Brady Keeper, Scott Wilson, Cole Schwindt

Injured: Aaron Ekblad (leg)

Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej PalatBrayden PointNikita Kucherov

Alex KillornAnthony CirelliSteven Stamkos

Ross Colton — Yanni GourdeBlake Coleman

Pat MaroonTyler Johnson

Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak

Mikhail SergachevDavid Savard

Luke Schenn

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Cal Foote, Mitchell Stephens, Gemel Smith, Christopher Gibson, Spencer Martin, Fredrik Claesson, Ben Thomas, Alex Barre-Boulet, Daniel Walcott, Andreas Borgman, Taylor Raddysh

, Boris Katchouk, Mathieu Joseph

Injured: Barclay Goodrow (upper body)

 

Status report

Gudas did not participate in the morning skate but is expected to play. … Nutivaara is likely to return after being scratched for the Panthers’ 4-1 win in Game 5. … The Lightning are expected to continue to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen, putting Schenn in the lineup. … Goodrow, a forward, continues to skate but is not ready to return. 

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