Florida would visit the Tampa Bay Lightning for the third game of their inaugural season for the first ever meeting between the in-state rivals. Florida had yet to play a home game, and were still looking for their first ever win (0-1-1), while the Lightning were sporting an 0-2-0 record. Tampa Bay's management welcomed the Panthers by refusing to put "Florida" on the scoreboard, opting for "Miami," instead. The game recap, as printed in The Day:
An NHL record crowd of 27,227 watched Florida goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck stop all 36 Tampa Bay shots in a 2-0 Panther win that spoiled the Lightning's home opener at the ThunderDome.
The victory was the first for the expansion Panthers (1-1-1), who opened the season with a 4-4 tie Wednesday at Chicago. Tampa Bay fell to 0-3.
The shutout was the 19th in an 11-year career for Vanbiesbrouck (1-0-1), who was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in the 1993 Expansion Draft.
Scott Levins scored what proved to be the game-winner at 2:19 of the second period on a deflection. Defenseman Brett Severyn wristed a shot on net from the left point that deflected in off Levins, who was camped in front of the goaltender.
Florida earned not only their first victory, but their first ever shutout in one fell swoop. The Panthers would next open up Miami Arena for their first ever home game on October 12th against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Five seasons afterward, Florida were the proud owners of a 13-6-6 all-time record against the Bolts, the team they would host in the 1998-99 season opener. The Panthers were coming off a disappointing 63 point season (24-43-15). The recap as printed in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:
The Florida Panthers showcased their new home Friday night and perhaps a new star.
Mark Parrish's first two NHL goals broke a tie in the third period as the Panthers christened their new arena with a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jassen Cullimore scored the Lightning's lone goal.
The game also marked the debut of Tampa Bay's Vincent LeCavalier, the first pick in June's entry draft. The 18-year-old center nearly scored late in the first period, but otherwise was held in check by the Florida defense.
"It's disappointing because we have to learn to be more patient," Tampa Bay coach Jacques Demers said. "It's not last year's team. It's a better team."
Tampa Bay, which finished with the NHL's worst record last season, upgraded their roster by adding such established names as Ranford, Wendel Clark, Craig Janney and Benoit Hogue.
Parrish, who tied for the league lead with six preseason goals, scored his first career goal at 2:34 of the period to break a 1-1 tie, then gave the Panthers a cushion with another goal at 8:24.
"It's nice to see a young player like that break in the way he did," said Florida coach Terry Murray, who was making his debut behind the Panthers' bench.
Viktor Kozlov assisted on both goals and scored two of his own as Florida sent the crowd of 19,200 home happy from the National Car Rental Center. The Panthers moved into their spacious $185 million home in Fort Lauderdale's western suburbs after five seasons in the cramped Miami Arena.
"It was very noisy. I love to play here," Kozlov said.
Parrish showed his finishing touch when he teamed with fellow rookie Oleg Kvasha and Kozlov to put the Panthers ahead 2-1.
Oleg Kvasha earned two assists, and goaltender Sean Burke stopped 28-of-29 shots in the victory. The 1-0-0 Panthers would take to the road to play the Nashville Predators the following night.
The 2-0-0-0 Panthers would conclude a season opening three game homestand against the visiting 2-1-0-0 Detroit Red Wings. Florida owned a 2-6-2 all-time record against the Wings. The game recap, as found in The Telegraph-Herald:
At Sunrise, Florida, Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood made a spectacular glove save in overtime for Detroit.
Radek Dvorak stole the puck and went in alone toward the net with just over a minute remaining. As Osgood was falling, he reached behind him and gloved Dvorak's point-blank shot to salvage a point in the teams' only meeting of the season.
Ryan Johnson and Ray Whitney tallied Florida's goals, while Sergei Federov and Brendan Shanahan buried the puck for Detroit. Trevor Kidd stopped 22-of-24 shots in earning the point for the Panthers. Florida would visit the Montreal Canadiens for their road opener on October 12th.
The 0-0-0-1 Panthers would play their road opener in Boston against the 1-0-1-0 Bruins. They had dropped the first game of the season to the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3 in overtime. The Panthers entered the contest with a career 13-11-3 record against the Bruins. The New York Times recap:
Mike Knuble scored Boston's first short-handed goal in almost two years and goalie Andrew Raycroft stopped 29 shots in his National Hockey League debut as the Bruins beat the visiting Florida Panthers, 4-2, yesterday.
The Bruins were the only team last season without a short-handed goal, with their last on Dec. 19, 1998 by Chris Taylor against Detroit.
Mikko Eloranta, Jason Allison and P. J. Axelsson also scored for Boston (2-0-1). Rob Niedermayer had a power-play goal for the Panthers (0-1-0-1), with Ray Whitney also scoring for Florida.
Roberto Luongo allowed four goals on only 22 shots in taking the loss for the Panthers, while Pavel Bure, Igor Larionov, and Todd Simpson earned an assist apiece. The Panthers would return home for a showdown with the Carolina Hurricanes on October 13th.
The 2003-04 season would start with Florida hosting the Carolina Hurricanes in Sunrise. The Panthers were coming off an NHL 28th-best 24-36-13-9 record the prior season, and looking to turn things around. They were 18-15-12 all time against the Whalers/Canes coming in. This recap appeared in The Dispatch:
Kristian Huselius wasted little time again in scoring his first goal of the season. That proved to be the difference for the Florida Panthers.
Huselius' goal at 7:37 of the third period marked the third consecutive season he scored on his first shot of the season. More importantly, it snapped a tie and led the Panthers to a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in the first game of the season for both teams in Sunrise, Florida.
"It's a good feeling," Huselius said. It is fun to score on your first shot at the net every year.
"The best thing is that it's the first game. It was a great game. It was especially fun to win our first game at home."
The Panthers hadn't won their opener since beating Washington 4-3 in 1999.
Niklas Hagman scored the first goal for the Panthers, who recorded three of their NHL-low eight home victories last season against the Hurricanes. Viktor Kozlov added an empty-net goal with 49 seconds left.
"I think the guys really want to get off to a good start, especially at home," Florida goalie Roberto Luongo said. "We made a great team effort tonight and hopefully we will get more of those in upcoming games."
Erik Cole scored the lone goal for Carolina, which finished with the worst record in the NHL last season.
"I wouldn't put a big tag on this one," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "We are going to be in these kind of games. It is Game 1. I thought a lot of things we did very well and something to build on are the positives."
Luongo made 31 saves for the Panthers. Kevin Weekes stopped 23 shots for Carolina.
The Hurricanes had a chance to tie it with just over a minute left when defenseman Danny Markov one-timed a pass to the side of the net, but Luongo slid across the crease in time to make the save.
The game matched the NHL's two lowest scoring teams from last season. Carolina finished with 171 goals and Florida scored 176.
Huselius scored when he took a pass in the slot from Valeri Bure, held on to the puck while Weekes went down to the ice and shot it over the sprawling goaltender.
The 1-0-0-0 Panthers would host the visiting Boston Bruins on October 11th before visiting the Canes on the 13th.
After opening the season by beating the Bruins by five goals at home, then losing to the Thrashers by six on the road, the 1-1-0 Panthers visited the 1-1-1 Toronto Maple Leafs on October 9. Florida had accrued a 9-19-8 all-time record against the Leafs. The NHL.COM recap:
TORONTO (AP) -Alex Auld played one of his best games of his career and knew what Mats Sundin was going to do in the shootout.
But he still lost.
Sundin and Darcy Tucker scored in the tiebreaker and the Toronto Maple Leafs overcame 47 saves from Auld in a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.
Sundin beat Auld in the shootout with a high shot to the glove side.
"The most frustrating thing is knowing exactly Mats is going to do and he still puts it by you," Auld said. "Every shootout he puts it upstairs. That's his thing."
Auld even got a scouting report from former Leafs goalie Ed Belfour, who told Auld that Sundin would go high.
Todd Bertuzzi followed with a deke and a backhanded shot, but Andrew Raycroft made a glove save.
Tucker followed with his goal that won it.
Sundin said Auld was outstanding, but was amazed by how many chances his team has missed this early season.
"To be honest with you, I don't think I've seen games like this in my past eight years with the Maple Leafs," Sundin said. "You look at the scoreboard and we got 40 shots after two periods and it's 0-0 and then you're down one, but we showed a lot of character."
Kyle Wellwood scored and Raycroft made 24 saves for the Maple Leafs, who lost in a shootout to Montreal on Saturday
Toronto defenseman Pavel Kubina had to be helped off the ice late in the third after Bertuzzi's knee collided with his. Toronto signed Kubina to a $20-million, four-year deal in the offseason.
Toronto coach Paul Maurice wouldn't provide details of the injury but suggested that Kubina would play through it. Kubina will go for further tests on Tuesday.
"We'll see how bad it is for Kubina. We're going to need him," Sundin said.
Stephen Weiss scored a power-play goal for the Panthers.
Raycroft stopped Jay Bouwmeester on a breakaway with a blocker save in overtime. Auld also made a number of impressive stops in the extra period.
Belfour allowed six goals in a loss to Atlanta on Thursday and was expected to start against his former team, but Panthers coach Jacques Martin went with Auld, who was outstanding throughout.
The Maple Leafs continued to have trouble converting scoring chances.
Auld robbed Darcy Tucker of a power-play goal with a spectacular glove save just minutes after Florida took the lead.
"He earned a point for their club," Sundin said.
Toronto went 0-for-6 on the power play.
After Bertuzzi fired a shot off Raycroft on a power play, Gary Roberts put another shot off the goalie before Weiss' backhander gave the Panthers the lead at 3:56 of the third.
Tucker found Wellwood streaking toward Florida's end with a nice pass midway through the third. Wellwood skated in alone before his slap shot beat Auld at 11:17.
Toronto recorded 16 shots on Auld in the first period and had two near goals reviewed by officials. Sundin's shot on the power play deflected off the post and almost went in, but Florida defenseman Bryan Allen cleared the puck just as it was about to cross the line.
Notes: Fans booed when it was announced that Auld would start instead of Belfour, who spent three seasons in Toronto before being bought out of the last year of his contract. ... Bertuzzi was booed when he first touched the puck in the opening period.
Florida, now 1-1-1, would go back home to play the Carolina Hurricanes on October 11th.
Florida returned from Helsinki, Finland with a 1-1-0 record after a split with the Chicago Blackhawks to open the season. On October 9, they would visit the1-2-0 Carolina Hurricanes for the 82nd meeting between the two franchises. Florida was 29-30-22 through the first 81. Here's the NHL.COM recap:
This was the kind of performance Carolina coach Paul Maurice had been awaiting.
After two losses and a shaky shootout win, the Hurricanes evened their record at 2-2-0 with their first dominant effort of the season, a 7-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
Tom Kostopoulos, Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen scored in a 10:05 span of the first period, and Ray Whitney added a goal in the second against Tomas Vokoun, who was victimized by numerous breakdowns and mistakes in front of him. Matt Cullen sent Vokoun to the bench with a goal 92 seconds into the third.
In all, 12 Hurricanes hit the scoresheet with a goal or an assist.
"You go three games and when people you expect to score don’t they feel it, and they feel it right away," Maurice said. "Hopefully those guys are just a little more confident with the puck now."
Cam Ward made 26 saves for the 'Canes, who visit Tampa Bay on Saturday, while Florida hosts New Jersey in its home opener.
"Cam has been good and he was good again," Cullen said. "He was probably the difference. It was a pretty even game early and he made some big saves for us. The way he’s playing is what we need and I know he expects that from himself."
It was the 17th win in the last 25 games against Southeast Division opponents for the Hurricanes.
"We know how important these games are because we would like to win the division," Cullen said. "It certainly is a goal of ours. We definitely gear up for them."
The Panthers hadn't played since Saturday, when they lost 4-0 to Chicago in the second of two games of 2009 Compuware/NHL Premiere-Helsinki -- and during the first period, they looked like team that was a little rusty.
Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason took the game's first penalty, going off for interference at 6:41, but it was the Hurricanes who scored the game's first goal. As Panthers' captain Bryan McCabe started up ice, he was stripped by Tom Kostopoulos. His first shot was stopped by Vokoun, but he nudged the rebound into the net at 7:00 for the Hurricanes' first shorthanded goal of the season.
"Hats off to Carolina, they played a great first period, and the game was over in the first 20 minutes. That was the story of the game," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "We turned pucks over and made mental mistakes, and they capitalized."
"That was just good pre-game video by our coaches," Kostopoulos said. "They said to pressure a certain way and you may get a turnover. I was surprised and I think my eyes were pretty big there, but it was good the team got off to a good start and it was good for our confidence."
Carolina made it 2-0 at 9:40 when Sergei Samsonov backhanded a breakout pass from his own zone that found Ruutu just before the red line. Ruutu went in alone and beat Vokoun with a high wrist shot.
Jokinen gave Carolina a three-goal lead at 17:05, capitalizing on some miscommunication behind the Florida net. When neither Vokoun nor defenseman Dmitri Kulikov played a dump-in behind the net cleanly, Jokinen grabbed the puck and stuffed it inside the goaltender's right post before Vokoun could react.
Florida failed on a second power play when Andrew Alberts was called for roughing and ended the period down three goals after being outshot 16-5.
The Panthers had a chance to get back in the game early in the second period when penalties to Alberts and Cullen gave them 3:30 of power-play time, including 40 seconds with a two-man advantage. But not until Ward had to make a good kick save on Nathan Horton in the final seconds of Cullen's penalty did Florida get a good scoring opportunity.
Whitney got his first goal of the season and made it 4-0 at 13:30 on another Florida breakdown. Niclas Wallin's pass from the left boards near the red line caught Whitney in stride as he was splitting the defense at the blue line. Whitney raced in, got Vokoun to move and slid a wrist shot past him.
Florida finally got on the board at 16:41 on one of its few flurries. Ward made a pair of stops but was helpless when Shawn Matthias grabbed a second rebound and wristed it into a half-empty net.
That turned out to be the only one of the Panthers' 17 second-period shots to get past the former Conn Smythe winner, who stood tall in the final minute of the period as Florida generated sustained pressure.
Cullen killed any momentum the Panthers may have had when he blasted a slapper from the top of the left circle that caught the far post and went in at 1:32 of the third period. That was the end of the night for Vokoun, who was replaced by rookie Alexander Salak, making his NHL debut.
Rod Brind'Amour got his first of the season with 4:46 remaining, beating Salak from inside the left circle with a slap shot past the rookie's glove, and Jay Harrison fired a wrister from above the left circle into the top corner 19 seconds later. Michael Frolik added a consolation goal for Florida with 2:12 to play.
Panthers @ Hurricanes 10/9/09 (via NHLVideo)
Not the best of days for the Panthers. LBC's David Dvork had this to say:
I'm going to keep this short and sweet because I cant see anybody wanting to read much about this disaster of a game, and I certainly don't feel like writing much about it. All we can hope for is a major rebound tomorrow in Sunrise that hopefully most of us will be there for.
When the game was still close enough to call ‘a game', the Panthers actually didn't play that badly. They made a few mistakes that unfortunately all turned into goals. I'm still not seeing anything from our supposed ‘veteran defensemen' (Ballard, McCabe), although Brian Allen seems to be playing well.
I'd say last night was a bit of a wake-up call for rookie Dmitry Kulikov. His positioning was off several times and I can remember at least two times he coughed up the puck in our own end. There will be a lot of guys looking for redemption on short notice tomorrow night.
The first line generated several scoring chances and had their most consistent game of the young season. I think a lot of that had to do with a having a healthy Stephen Weiss, who was so much better then he was against the Blackhawks. Playing overseas with the flu will do that to a person.
In seven tries on this date, Florida has collected three wins, two losses, an overtime loss, and a tie. We'll just call it 3-2-2. Not the worst of times. Thanks for reading, and check back tomorrow and every day through the lockout for more Florida Panthers history.