Florida opened their 22nd season Saturday night with a stunning 7-1 win over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. Vincent Trocheck led the Cats with a goal and three assists, while Jaromir Jagr and Reilly Smith added two markers apiece. Six Panthers in total finished with multiple points.
Florida opened the scoring just 1:23 into the first period when Trocheck collected a careless rebound off of Steve Mason's left pad for a quick 1-0 lead, with assists going to Jussi Jokinen and Willie Mitchell.
Prior to the five minute mark, the Panthers took advantage of a Scott Laughton tripping penalty by converting their first power play opportunity of the season. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau slid the puck back and forth on the right side of the ice, dishing it back to Aaron Ekblad at the point. Ekblad carefully dished it to a wide-open Nick Bjugstad on the left side, who beat Mason from 13-feet for a two-goal lead. The only Panthers' skater on the ice to not touch the puck on the exchange was none other than Jagr. Florida looked sure, confident, and competent on the exchange.
Less than one minute later, the Panthers made their power play two-for-two on the season by making the Flyers pay for a Michael Raffl hooking infraction. Reilly Smith scored his first Florida goal by collecting a Brandon Pirri pass off the back side of the boards and quickly deking out Mason for a 3-0 lead. Trocheck earned his second point of the night on the play with the secondary assist.
Exactly a minute after that, Trocheck collected an ill-advised outlet pass from Mason and dinked it off the post, but Jokinen was there to slide home the rebound for Florida's quickest ever 4-0 lead in a season opener. The outburst was also a new, modern day NHL record. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol pulled Mason at that point, just four-for-eight on save opportunities. That would do it for the scoring in the first, although tough-guy Shawn Thornton and counterpart Ryan White dropped the gloves with four minutes remaining in the frame and both were assessed five minute majors. Thornton was the clear victor in the tilt. Roberto Luongo was perfect in stopping a dozen shots, and almost completely escaped notice, just by being consistent, due to the onslaught at the other end. Michal Neuvirth stopped the first three shots that he faced.
The second period started for the Panthers much as the first period had, with a quick goal. Jagr took the shine off Neuvirth's Mighty Mouse act ("Here I come to save the dayyyyyyy....") with his first goal of the season (and the 723rd of his career). The lone assist on the play was credited to Barkov.
A scuffle at the 3:34 mark of the second period led to Philadelphia's first man-advantage of the night, and it only took 16 seconds for them to break through with a Mark Streit marker from Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds.
Florida failed to convert a four-minute double-minor assessed at the 16:30 mark when an inadvertent high-stick from Luke Schenn caught Huberdeau. It looked completely unintentional, although both teams were notably chippy all night long. Luongo stopped five-of-six shots, while Neuvirth turned aside 12-of-13.
For the third time in Florida's first three periods of the season, the Panthers began the frame with a quick goal, Jagr's second of the night (and the 724th of his career). Assists were awarded to Brian Campbell and Barkov.
At the 7:55 mark, the Panthers took advantage of a full two minute five-on-three power play (Evgeny Medvedev elbowing, Simmonds unsportsmanlike conduct) with their seventh strike of the game. Smith lit the lamp for the second time while Trocheck and Pirri added to their point totals. Luongo again stopped a dozen shots, while Neuvirth made 13 saves in 15 chances.
Sometimes, Jagr looks like a Destroyer amongst Frigates out there. He's a force of nature, inexorably ageless, like winter. He just keeps on going. His 1,804 points rank him as fourth all-time. He should pass Gordie Howe this season (1,850), and has an outside shot of passing Mark Messier (1,887) for second. Wayne Gretzky is still over 1,000 points ahead, but who knows?
Speaking of ageless, Luongo made 38-of-39 saves for his 402nd career win. He will tie Grant Fuhr for ninth all-time with his next win, and will pass Glenn Hall for eighth when he reaches 408. Tony Esposito is reachable in this calendar year as well, with 423, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. What's the Frequency, Kenneth????? That was random.
Meanwhile, the statistical leader of Philadelphia's goaltenders (Neuvirth) currently sports an .864 save percentage, and the team has allowed 10 markers on 62 shots this season for a GAA of just under five. Hopefully we can help them keep that up.
And how about those draft babies? Barkov, Bjugstad, Ekblad, Huberdeau, and Trocheck all figured into the scoring, and Erik Gudbranson wasn't half bad either.
The Flyers out-hit the Cats, 38-to-31, and each team blocked 10 shots on the night. Faceoffs were nearly even, with the Panthers winning 38 and the Flyers winning 36.
I know this isn't the way it happened, and reckon it's worth researching if I get the time, but did anyone else notice the scuffle between Thornton and Raffl began when there were just under five minutes remaining in the period? Could it be a sort of conspiracy, do you think, between the NHL's "enforcers" to fight with that much time left in "X" period so that they can get a little extra rest? It's probably nothing (I've been watching too many Roddy Piper movies).
- NHL.com recap
- Hockey-reference.com Box Score
- War-on-ice.com's Advanced Stat roundup
- Opposition Point of View
- Video Highlights
Next up for the Panthers are none other than the Flyers - who held a closed-door meeting following Saturday's game - on Monday in Philly.