After starting out their sixth season with an impressive 4-1 home victory against their chief rivals in Tampa Bay, the Panthers played their road opener the very next night, against the brand-new Nashville Predators. It would be the first NHL action for the Preds, as they trotted out a club of cast-offs and rejects from other organizations (as well as a couple of solid veterans) to face the Cats. Right winger Tom Fitzgerald, now a Predator, had also played in the Panthers first ever contest. Here's the only free recap available on the internet, courtesy of The Post And Courier:
NHL hockey made its debut in Nashville, resulting in a loss for the punchless Predators to the Florida Panthers.
Mike Dunham took the loss for Nashville, despite a strong 25-for-26 effort, while Kirk McLean put up his 21st career shutout, stopping all 26 shots for the win. Ray Whitney supplied all the offense that Florida would need, with assists from Oleg Kvasha and Gord Murphy. Florida, now 2-0-0, would next play the Buffalo Sabres in a road matchup on October 16th, while the Preds would earn their first victory in their next game, a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The 1-2-0 Panthers, fresh off their first victory of the season three nights prior (a 5-0 blanking of the Tampa Bay Lightning), would host the 2-2-0-0 Ottawa Senators on October 10th. Florida was 16-12-3 against the Senators all-time. The recap, as printed in the Times-Union:
Jani Hurme made 36 saves for his third career shutout, and Martin Havlat and Daniel Alfredsson scored as Ottawa won in Florida.
Hurme earned his first shutout since Jan. 20 against Tampa Bay.
Havlat scored on a power play for his fourth point in two games and Ottawa's sixth power-play goal of the season.
Florida's Roberto Luongo was injured at 3:47 of the first period when teammate Valeri Bure's skate cut his right forearm as the goalie went down to stop a shot. With blood gushing from his arm, Luongo left the ice and was replaced by Trevor Kidd.
Luongo needed stitches to close the cut and is expected to miss a minimum of a week.
Despite only playing for just under four minutes, Luongo took the loss by allowing a goal on four shots. Kidd stopped 26-of-27 in the relief effort. Florida would finish up their two-game homestand three nights later against the Philadelphia Flyers. After his injury, Luongo didn't start the next game for the Panthers, but ended up earning the win in relief anyway (more on that later).
Florida, just off an NHL 28th best 60-point campaign in the 2001-02 season (22-44-10-6), would open the new season at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Florida had accrued a stellar 26-12-7 record against the cross state rivals. The recap comes courtesy of the AP, as printed in the Ocala Star-Banner:
Vaclav Prospal scored at 3:34 of overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night in the opener for both teams.
Prospal, who had 18 goals in 81 games last season pounced on a loose puck and stuffed it past goalie Roberto Luongo.
Brad Richards, Brad Lukowic and Vincent LeCavalier also scored for the Lightning, with Lecavalier tying it at 3 with 2:55 left in the third.
Florida defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh scored two power play goals, the first with 0.2 seconds left in the first period. Niklas Hagman also scored for the Panthers.
Afterward, Florida would hit the road, next appearing on October 12th against the Atlanta Thrashers. The Lightning would remain in Tampa Bay for a matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes two nights later.
Florida, 2-1-0 after a split with the Tampa Bay Lightning, would face the 1-1-0 New York Islanders in Nassau Colesium on Monday, October 10. Florida was 22-19-9 all time against the Islanders (they have gone 17-5-6 since). Roberto Luongo had stopped 93-of-95 (.979) shots through the first three games of the season. Here's the NHL.COM recap:
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) - Roberto Luongo is using his stick, his glove and now even his face to keep shots out of the net.
Luongo made 29 saves Monday, including a penalty-shot stop in the third period, and earned his first non-shutout win of the season in the Florida Panthers' 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders.
The former first-round pick of the Islanders was sharp early, making one save when he sprawled across the crease to deny Jason Blake with his stick and another off a shot that struck him in the mask by his chin.
With the Islanders already ahead 1-0 and on a power play in the final minute of the period, rookie defenseman Tomi Pettinen let go a hard shot that hit Luongo flush and knocked him onto his stomach.
``I was a little stung, but after a couple of minutes I was OK,'' Luongo said.
He was better than that, stopping all 18 New York shots the rest of the way. Luongo has turned aside 119 of 122 shots in Florida's first four games and was chosen Monday as the NHL's defensive player of the week.
Luongo (3-1) posted shutouts in the first two games, stopping 61 shots, and didn't allow a goal until a 2-1 loss Saturday to Tampa Bay.
``Everybody believes in him, he believes in himself. As long as you play hard defensively, he's going to make a majority of the saves,'' said Florida forward Joe Nieuwendyk, a free-agent signing this summer. ``I didn't realize how good Louie was until I got here.''
The Panthers didn't score more than twice in a game before Monday and it took an empty-netter to get to three.
Kristian Huselius and Chris Gratton scored 4:31 apart in the second period to give Florida a rare early lead and Rostislav Olesz sealed Florida's .500 road trip with 34.3 seconds left when he scored his first NHL goal on his 20th birthday.
Florida could've had more early, but Rick DiPietro made a pad stop against Niklas Hagman when he was left alone in front in the opening minute. Juraj Kolnik then shot wide of the net when he had a clear shot shortly after.
``You can't just focus on goals, you have to look at the number of chances,'' Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. ``I really liked the first 10 minutes. Hagman had a great chance, you have to give credit to their goaltender.''
But his goalie was better.
Luongo's biggest test came with 14:34 left when Miroslav Satan was given a penalty shot after he was hooked on a breakaway by former Islanders defenseman Branislav Mezei.
Satan's low shot was steered away by Luongo's stick.
``When he goes down, there's nothing there, so I thought I could get the shot in there quickly,'' Satan said. ``Unfortunately, he's too quick. I felt responsible for this game. I think I should have put it in.''
DiPietro made 20 saves and Satan scored the only goal for the Islanders (1-2).
The Panthers took a 2-1 lead on a play that appeared promising, broke down, and reformed to produce a goal.
After Oleg Kvasha turned over the puck near center ice, Florida broke into the Islanders' zone on an odd-man rush. Niklas Hagman had two skaters alongside but dumped a pass into no man's land as he came in off the left point.
Nathan Horton got to it with only Brent Sopel back on defense for New York. Horton got the puck across to Gratton, who easily steered a shot into the open right side at 7:46 for his first goal.
Huselius gave Florida its first lead since the second game of the season with his first goal at 3:15.
That marked the first goal scored by Florida that didn't come in the third period. The Panthers scored five total goals in their first two games, including consecutive 2-0 victories to start the season.
Satan got his second goal in two games after going seven preseason games and the first real one without a point. It came 15 seconds into a power play.
The Islanders stayed in the game because they were able to kill off nine of Florida's 10 man advantages.
Notes: Luongo has stopped all five penalty shots against him in his career. ... Florida LW Gary Roberts played only 3:07 after aggravating a groin injury. He is day to day.
Things were looking up for the 3-1-0 Panthers, and there were those who felt that this was finally the year that we put an end to "the streak." History has shown, however, it would be a half-dozen more seasons before we would again field a participant in Lord Stanley's tournament. Florida would go on to host the Boston Bruins three nights later, while the Islanders traveled to Washington, to face the Capitals on October 13th.
On Wednesday, October 10, the 0-2-0 Panthers had been outscored 9-3 and were already facing an uphill climb if they were to be in serious consideration for a playoff position. They would visit the 2-0-0 Lightning in Tampa Bay for the 73rd meeting between the clubs. Florida owned a 39-20-13 advantage. Here's the AP recap, as retrieved from NHL.COM:
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -The Lightning were hoping Chris Gratton would provide offensive depth. They would have dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten three games into the season without him.
Gratton scored twice and Johan Holmqvist made 30 saves as Tampa Bay beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Wednesday night.
The Lightning's top line of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Prospal, which combined for six goals and 13 points during the first two games, didn't record a point against Florida.
"When the big line isn't going, we found a way," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "I thought Grats' line was probably our best line."
Gratton, reacquired by Tampa Bay from Florida for a 2008 second-round draft pick in June, has 14 career multigoal games.
"It's always tough to play your former teammates," Gratton said. "It's nice to chip in against any team in the league. Our line has got to help out with the offense a little bit. We got a couple lucky breaks, but I thought it was a solid game by both teams."
Holmqvist has allowed four goals in three games this season, helping the Lightning start the season 3-0 for the just the third time in team history.
"Last year, most of those shots would go in," Florida captain Olli Jokinen said. "I think their goalie played probably the best game since he's been in the league, especially against us."
The Panthers got a goal from Ville Peltonen. Backup goalie Craig Anderson stopped 21 shots in his first appearance of the season.
"That was probably our best game since the start of the season," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "I think we created some more chances and made some good saves. We just didn't finish at times, but we did a lot of things better."
Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead when Gratton redirected Paul Ranger's shot during a power play with 9:24 left in the second. Peltonen had tied it at 1 earlier in the period at 4:04.
Gratton put Tampa Bay up 1-0 with a rebound goal at 9:03 of the first. The goal came shortly after Holmqvist made a strong save on Nathan Horton's shot from the low slot.
Anderson stopped Lecavalier twice on breakaways during the final five minutes of the first. He got the start in place of the struggling Tomas Vokoun, who is 0-2 with a 4.54 goals-against-average and an .816 save percentage this season.
Florida had the first eight shots of the third, but Holmqvist was up to the challenge and stopped them all during the period's opening five minutes.
Tampa Bay was credited with 13 blocked shots, and also limited rebound opportunities.
"You need to have a purpose when you go to the net," Jokinen said. "You just don't go there because the coach tells you to go. You have to have that fire in your eyes. You have to think there's going to be a rebound. You have to be ready to put the puck in."
Florida would return home to face the New Jersey Devils the next night, while the Bolts would take three days off before visiting the Panthers for a rematch on Saturday, October 13th.
Panthers @ Lightning 10/10/07 (via NHLVideo)
The Panthers would open the 2008-09 season in Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes. Florida had collected a 26-29-20 against the Canes through their history, and were hoping to get a little closer to .500
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -Joni Pitkanen and Dan LaCouture found the perfect way to fit in with their new Carolina teammates: Lead them to a season-opening victory over the team that kept them out of the playoffs.
Both of the Hurricanes' newcomers scored in their debut Friday night, and Carolina beat the Florida Panthers 6-4 in the opener for both teams.
Rod Brind'Amour, Tuomu Ruutu and Ray Whitney also scored, Matt Cullen added an empty-net goal, Tim Gleason had three assists and Frantisek Kaberle had two to help Carolina rally from an early two-goal deficit.
"I'm just happy I was able to contribute - it ended up being the game-winning goal," LaCouture said. "The biggest thing is, we won the game and I'm happy I was able to contribute in some way."
Nathan Horton made it a one-goal game with 8:29 left by beating Carolina's Cam Ward with a wrist shot. Ward stopped the final four shots he faced, and Cullen's goal with 26.4 seconds left sealed the Hurricanes' first season-opening victory at home since 2001.
David Booth had a goal and an assist, and Radek Dvorak and former Hurricane Cory Stillman also scored for Florida, which lost Pete DeBoer's coaching debut. Ward finished with 29 saves, and Tomas Vokoun stopped 18 shots for the Panthers.
"I just didn't make enough saves," Vokoun said. "We outplayed them. We just have to clean up some stuff. ... It wasn't my best game (but) we definitely played well enough to win tonight."
Pitkanen, acquired from Edmonton in July for fan favorite Erik Cole, gave Carolina the lead for good with about 5 minutes left in the second when he took a feed from Gleason in the left circle and snapped the puck past Vokoun to make it 4-3.
LaCouture, a 31-year-old veteran who played in Switzerland last year and made the team as an unsigned free agent, made it a two-goal game early in the third with a wrist shot off a rebound for his first NHL goal in "definitely a couple years."
"They didn't really have a defenseman around me, and I just wanted to make sure I was able to get the shot off quick enough before (the defense) was able to slide over," LaCouture said. "There's no better feeling."
Neither of them was around for Carolina's finale in April, when the Panthers' 4-1 victory - their first in Raleigh since 2002 - knocked the Hurricanes out of the Southeast Division lead and wound up keeping them out of the playoffs for a second consecutive year.
"We were very anxious and nervous, and a lot of hype went into this game, from playing them the last game of last season, so we were maybe a little too nervous, too fired up," Whitney said. "And sometimes when you're doing that, you get a little jittery - you'll see that in football, guys get a little anxious and the offsides come, the mental mistakes, and that's what it was tonight."
Florida, playing its first game since dealing scoring leader Olli Jokinen to Phoenix, threatened to make it two straight at the RBC Center by jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Booth and Stillman, the last coming with a two-man advantage.
"A lot of people are questioning our scoring without Olli here, but a lot of guys stepped up today," Booth said. "We keep scoring four goals. ... A lot of good things tonight."
Carolina then reeled off three straight goals over the next 17 minutes: Ruutu redirected Dennis Seidenberg's hard blast past Vokoun and Whitney beat him with a wrist shot from the slot in the first, and Brind'Amour put Carolina up midway through the second by tapping a loose puck past the Florida goalie.
"It was perfect game plan to quiet the building," DeBoer said, "until they came back at us."
Seven minutes later, Dvorak tied it at 3 with a high wrist shot.
Notes: C Brandon Sutter made his Carolina debut. The Hurricanes' first-round draft pick in 2007 is the son of former NHL center Brent Sutter and the nephew of Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter. ... Florida D Bryan McCabe left midway through the second with an apparent left leg injury. He twisted as he collided with Seidenberg into the boards. ... The Panthers have lost consecutive openers since winning three in a row from 2003-06. ... Whitney's goal was his 200th point with the Hurricanes. ... U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., rang the new "Hurricanes Warning Siren" during the team's pregame entrance.
Pantheres @ Hurricanes 10/10/08 (via NHLVideo)
Afterward, the Panthers flew home to take on the Atlanta Thrashers in their first Sunrise tilt of the season, while the Canes faced the Lightning in Tampa Bay.
After splitting a season opening "home-and-home" series against the Chicago Blackhawks in Stockholm, Florida dropped their third game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes, 7-2 on October 9th. The next night, the 1-2-0 Cats played their first home game of the season (in Sunrise), against the 1-2-0 New Jersey Devils. Florida could boast a less than optimal 19-34-12 record against New Jersey. The NHL.COM recap:
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -Thanks to their power play, the New Jersey Devils didn't waste what coach Jacques Lemaire called the team's best performance of the young season.
David Clarkson scored with the man advantage with 3:35 left Saturday night to give the Devils a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. The goal came less than 2 minutes after Stephen Weiss tied the game at 2 on a beautiful individual effort.
"A team with leadership and good veterans will keep coming," Clarkson said. "The way we did it shows our leadership right there. When they score late in the game to tie it up, we don't just give up and sit there. We came back out and made sure we were getting chances to come back and win the game."
Travis Zajac had a power-play goal and an assist on the winner for New Jersey, which was 2-for-6 with the man advantage.
"We did a pretty good when we needed to," Zajac said. "At the end when we had a chance to regain the lead we did a pretty good job on it."
Rob Niedermayer also scored and Brian Rolston had two assists for New Jersey. The Devils have won the first two games of a three-game trip to even their record at 2-2.
"Overall, it's probably our best game from the first minute to the last," Lemaire said. "Through the whole game, we probably had one average shift."
Rostislav Olesz had the other goal for Florida in the Panthers' first game at the BankAtlantic Center this season. The Panthers (1-3) opened the season with two games against Chicago in Finland on Oct. 2-3 and were the designated home team for the second.
After six days off, the Panthers lost at Carolina, 7-2, on Friday night before facing the Devils.
"They were sitting here waiting for you while you were on the road the night before, it isn't the perfect scenario," Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. "Given the circumstances we gave ourselves a chance and it would have been nice to pick up a point."
Martin Brodeur stopped 19 shots to improve to 33-12-7 against Florida.
Tomas Vokoun made 38 saves for Florida.
Vokoun, who gave up five goals on 26 shots Friday night and was pulled early in the third period, kept the Panthers in the game. He stopped Jamie Langenbrunner on a partial breakaway midway through the third quarter to keep New Jersey's lead at 2-1. Langenbrunner also hit the post in the first period.
New Jersey had a 23-4 shot advantage 5 minutes into the second period and ended up outshooting Florida 41-21.
"We wanted to stick with it because sometimes in games like that a bounce here, a bounce there, you've been playing so well and the momentum can turn like that," said Niedermayer. "I thought we did a great job just sticking with our game plan. It was a big win for us."
Clarkson scored when he one-timed Zajac's pass in front of the net.
Weiss had tied it at 14:37 of the third with Florida's first power- play goal of the season after 15 unsuccessful attempts. After crossing the blue line with speed, he skated around defenseman Johnny Oduya before flipping a shot over Brodeur.
"They talked about wanting to jump on us early, knowing we played last night. We knew they were going to try to force the issue. We were in the hockey game 2-2. You've got to find a way to bear down and get that point."
Zajac broke a 1-1 tie late in the second period with his third goal of the season when he took a feed from Andy Greene in the high slot and fired a quick shot that beat Vokoun to the blocker side.
After a scoreless first period, New Jersey took a 1-0 lead at 11:14 when Niedermayer one-timed Paul Martin's feed from behind the net.
The Panthers caught New Jersey in a line change to tie it at 13:58. Radek Dvorak got behind the New Jersey defense before feeding Olesz, who tipped the pass past Brodeur.
"They had the better legs tonight, they had more time of possession," DeBoer said. "We were reaching and taking penalties because of that. We probably got the result we deserved. It would have been nice to steal a point for hanging around that long."
NOTES: Florida is scoreless in the first period this season. ... Florida D Bryan Allen sat out one night after being minus-5 in the loss at Carolina. Coach Pete DeBoer said this was planned all along as a precaution after Allen missed all but two games in 2008-09 because of a knee injury. ... New Jersey will end its trip Monday in Washington. ... D Cory Murphy, who spent part of last season with Florida, was one of three healthy scratches for New Jersey.
Devils @ Panthers 10/10/09 (via NHLVideo)
The Panthers would continue to experience a lot of pain and suffering through the next few weeks before a three game winning streak near Halloween. They would travel to Tampa Bay to face familiar foes the Lightning on the 12th.
Florida opened the 2010-11 season in Edmonton against the Oilers. Florida was 8-7-5 all-time against Edmonton all-time. Here's Donny's LBC recap:
Game Notes: Cats had an abundance of jump early, surprising considering this was the opener, but settled into a defensive posture - and hardly an effective one - in the second frame. Shots ended 28-13 in favor of Florida; that's right: Tomas Vokoun was all over 10 of 13 shots he saw...a complete fluke. Christopher Higgins has himself some special hands and terrific on-ice vision among traffic. Marty Reasoner scored both goals for Florida (10:41 TOI...astounding) as Steve Bernier picked up dual assists - the Panthers debut for both. SOG leaders for the Cats (3): Higgins, Dmitry Kulikov, Rostislav Olesz (on his 25th birthday). Michael Frolik (0p), David Booth (1a), and Stephen Weiss (0p) were all -2 and collectively attempted 4 SOG. Dennis Wideman led all Panthers in icetime with 24 minutes; at the other end, a rather spunky Darcy Hordichuk closed with 5:09. Video of Reasoner's second goal (powered by a double-shifting Booth). Edmonton scorers: Dustin Penner, Ryan Jones, and Shawn Horcoff (perhaps...). First-overall 2010 draft pick Taylor Hall notched his first career point (an assist). Nikolai Khabibulin (26 saves) improved to 2-0 on the young season. Florida was the final club to start the year; only Southeast team without a point in standings. Check out The Copper And Blue for more from OilersNation. Next game: Monday at Vancouver, 10pm; live chat right here at 9:30.
Panthers @ Oilers 10/10/10 (via NHLVideo)
Florida would continue their great North roadtrip the following night against the Canucks in Vancouver.
There you have it. Florida is 2-6 on October 10th's through their history. I'm kinda glad we're not playing today (I jest). Check back tomorrow for more Panther goodness.