Three games into their inaugural season, the Panthers were 1-1-1. On October 12th, they would make their home debut at the Miami Arena, hosting the Jaromir Jagr led 2-2-0 Pittsburgh Penguins. Here's the AP roundup, as printed in the Beaver County Times:
The Florida Panthers home opener gave fans a taste of what's to come.
An upset bid by the expansion team fell short Tuesday night in a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We're going to be competitive night after night after night," forward Brian Skrudland said. "This sort of game and a 1-0 game are exactly what we want."
Martin Straka and Joe Mullen scored for the Penguins. A sellout crowd of 14,372 was disappointed by the outcome but delighted to have Miami on ice.
"The fans were very encouraging," said goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, who stopped 27 shots. "Hopefully we'll have a good core that will come out here and support us. They're going to have to keep the faith and stick with us, because there'll be times when we're down and need their help."
Florida was down 2-0 when Scott Mellanby scored at 11:32 of the third period. But the Panthers couldn't push a tying goal past Ken Wregget, who made 23 saves.
"There are going to be no easy games coming into this building," Penguins coach Ed Johnston said, "You're going to have to work for everything you get."
Straka, who came into the game tied for the NHL lead with five goals, broke a scoreless tie at 17:40 of the second period.
Mullen scored a shorthanded, unassisted goal at 3:51 of the third period. Vanbiesbrouck came out of his net to beat Mullen to a loose puck, but Mullen knocked the goalie's clearing attempt out of the air and shot into the open net.
"It's just a matter of being lucky enough to knock it out of the air," Mullen said.
Mellanby beat Wregget from the slot with a wrist shot to the glove side. Evgeny Davydov and rookie Rob Niedermayer assisted.
"They're well-disciplined and they have good goalkeeping," Johnston said. "They have a pretty good system here, and with those things they have a chance to build very quickly."
Mellanby's goal drew the biggest cheer of the night. The second-biggest cheer came when owner H. Wayne Huizenga was introduced during a flashy 30-mnute pre-game-show.
The game included one fight, which novice fan Huizenga didn't seem to mind.
"Everyone knows you're a first year team," he said. "You can't let the big boys step all over you."
The 1-2-1 Panthers would remain at home for four more games beginning with the Ottawa Senators on October 14th. The Penguins would also play that night in their next game, in Tampa Bay against the Lightning.
Florida, sitting pretty with a 2-0-1 record, would host the 2-0-0 Hartford Whalers in Miami Arena. Hartford had defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-3 in their last action, while Florida was coming off a 1-1 tie with the New York Rangers. Here's the recap as printed in Beaver County Times:
John Vanbiesbrouck earned his 24th career shutout and Florida got goals from six different players as the Panthers defeated the Whalers.
Newly acquired defenseman Paul Coffey and forward Keith Primeau, who were traded from Detroit earlier in the week, made their Hartford debut, but could do little as Florida improved to 3-0-1.
Vanbiesbrouck was at his best stopping 21 shots to earn his eighth shutout as a Panther. Hartford (2-1-0), which hasn't won at Florida since March 4, 1994, got off few decent shots and Vanbiesbrouck smothered them when they did.
Stu Barnes (three assists), Per Gustafsson (one goal, one assist), Scott Mellanby (two assists), Ray Sheppard (one goal, one assist), Radek Dvorak (one assist), Tom Fitzgerald (one goal), Mike Hough (one goal), Bill Lindsay (one goal), Gord Murphy (one goal), Rob Niedermayer (one assist), and Robert Svehla (one assist) scored for the Panthers. Florida would take to the road afterward for a three-game west-coast swing, starting with the San Jose Sharks on October 16, while the Whalers would next appear on October 17th, in New York to face the Islanders.
The 2-0-1 Panthers had tied the Detroit Red Wings, 2-2 to close their season opening three game homestand. On October 12th, they visited the 1-3-0 Montreal Canadiens. Here's the recap as printed in The Daily Gazette:
Pavel Bure had a goal and an assist as the unbeaten Florida Panthers beat the Montreal Canadiens.
Florida's Scott Mellanby was carried off the ice on a stretcher after he slid hard into the boards and hit the back of his head at the end of the game. There was no immediate word on his condition.
Bure scored his third goal of the season in the first period, and got point no. 500 when he assisted on Lance Pitlick's second-period goal. Bure left the game midway through the third period after a fall in the Montreal zone and did not return.
Trevor Kidd turned aside 16 shots for the Panthers victory. Bure would miss two weeks, returning October 27th against the New York Islanders. Mellanby would miss four games before returning on October 22nd. The Panthers would next visit the Toronto Maple Leafs the following night, while Montreal would travel to Philadelphia for a match on the 14th.
Florida was 0-0-0-1 after dropping a 4-3 home decision in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning two nights prior. They would play their road opener on October 12th against the Atlanta Thrashers. Here's part of the cnn/si recap:
The teams were skating 3-on-3 after penalties 10 seconds apart in the extra period. Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo was called for delay of game, and Ilya Kovalchuk was caught with an illegal stick.
Jokinen also scored the tying goal with 8:37 left in regulation on the power play, corralling the puck near the crease after an errant pass and beating Pasi Nurminen with a backhander.
The Panthers would next visit the Minnesota Wild on October 15th in the second game of a four game roadtrip.
The 1-3-0 Panthers, losers in three straight contests after winning the season opener in Helsinki, would visit the 1-1-2 Tampa Bay Lightning on October 12. An excerpt from the NHL.COM recap:
Malone scored on a rebound in the third period to give the Lightning a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.
After Niittymaki made a save on David Booth's breakaway, Steven Stamkos picked up the loose puck and his shot after an end-to-end rush was stopped by Florida's Tomas Vokoun. However, Malone scored his fifth goal of the season when he converted the rebound from near the post to put Tampa Bay up 3-2.
Coach DeBoer was looking for bright spots afterward:
"That's the best 60 minutes we've played," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "I like what we did from a system point of view. We did a lot of things right. We've got to find a way to get a win."
Panthers @ Lightning 10/12/09 (via NHLVideo)
The Panthers would return home and try to turn things around on October 16th against the Philadelphia Flyers. So, on October 12th, Florida has posted a 3-2-0 record. Come back tomorrow for more on Florida Panthers history, and continue to tune into Litter Box Cats for all your Panthers news.