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Wild-Panthers could feature intriguing goalie matchup

Jan 19, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Florida Panthers goalie Alex Lyon (34) celebrates the win against the Montreal Canadiens with defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) and center Anton Lundell (15) after the third period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was the first overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft.

Florida Panthers goalie Alex Lyon was passed up by every NHL team in every round of his draft year.

Fleury has played in 967 NHL games; Lyon has played in 25.

Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and the winner of the 2021 Vezina Trophy, while Lyon is a 30-year-old journeyman who just went 422 days without an NHL win.

All of that is germane because Fleury could match up against Lyon on Saturday evening as Minnesota visits Florida in Sunrise, Fla.

But the Panthers are confident in Lyon despite his unimpressive resume.

In fact, Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg even gave Lyon a fantastic nickname after he defeated the host Montreal Canadiens 6-2 on Thursday night.

“The ‘Lyon King’ steals the show,” Lomberg said. “He was impressive.”

Ironically, Lyon is a native of Minnesota, which means that Saturday’s game against the Wild would provide him with added incentive.

Lyon, a former Yale University star, made his NHL debut with Philadelphia on Feb. 1, 2018, but has bounced around since then.

He was signed by the Panthers on July 13, 2022, and recalled from the minors on Jan. 10 when backup goalie Spencer Knight was placed on injured reserve.

Lyon didn’t play a single minute, however, until starter Sergei Bobrovsky jammed his left foot into the post just 2:01 into Thursday’s game.

“That’s why you stay ready,” Lyon said. “I prepare as hard as I can. It’s pretty simple.”

It hasn’t always been that simple, however.

“I have made the mistake in the past of not being prepared,” he said. “Now I think of the worst-case scenario.”

Besides the goalie matchup, the other glaring contrast heading into Saturday’s game is the power play.

Florida went 4-for-8 on its man advantage Thursday, with all four goals coming in the second period. That tied a Panthers record – set in 1998 – for most power-play goals in one period.

Minnesota, meanwhile, gave Carolina seven power-play chances on Thursday. The Hurricanes converted twice and had one short-handed goal, defeating Minnesota 5-2.

The Wild, who had their three-game win streak snapped, were outscored 2-1 at even strength.

“I think 5-on-5 we were actually pretty good,” Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek said.

Another issue for Minnesota on Thursday was its defensemen as Matt Dumba was a healthy scratch for the first time all season.

The biggest positive note for the Wild came on Kirill Kaprizov’s goal. It was his 100th NHL goal, and he reached that milestone in just his 180th game.

Among active NHL players, only Alex Ovechkin (167 games) and Patrik Laine (179) have reached 100 faster.

Kaprizov leads Minnesota with 26 goals. He and Mats Zuccarello are tied for the team lead with 27 assists.

Matthew Tkachuk, who scored twice on Thursday, leads Florida with 24 goals. He also tops the team with 34 assists.

–Field Level Media