First NHL game, first NHL goal.— NHL (@NHL) January 31, 2021
What a stage in OT to get it — congrats to Aleksi Heponiemi! pic.twitter.com/UKENEuilez
The 22-year-old Heponiemi became the fourth player in league history to score an overtime game-winning goal in his NHL debut, joining Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov (January 14, 2021), Calgary’s Tim Sweeney (October 4, 1990) and Nick Knott (November 2, 1941) of the long defunct Brooklyn Americans.
Duclair did most of the work on the winner. After Greiss denied him on a breakaway, the goaltender put the puck back in play and it deflected off a tired Dylan Larkin’s skate and back to the speedy winger above the right circle. Duclair bulled his way back to the net to make the pass to the open rookie.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 of 27 shots to raise his record to 3-0 on the season. Bob’s GAA dropped to 2.87 and his save percentage climbed to .897.
All of the other scoring occurred in the first period, with the two former Atlantic Division teams combining for 23 shots on goal (Detroit 12-Florida 11).
Aleksander Barkov notched his second of the season to start things off at the 3:06 mark when his pass from below the goal line, intended for a driving Patric Hornqvist, was deflected in by Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser. Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad picked up the helpers on the power-play marker.
The Red Wings scored twice in a 1:57 span later in the frame to jump on top.
Trailer Anthony Mantha was left all alone to convert a juicy rebound after Vladislav Namestnikov flipped a backhand pass, that missed its target, on goal at 15:02.
Detroit punched in another rebound at 16:59 when Tyler Bertuzzi cleaned up after Larkin’s initial shot.
Florida’s power play clicked a second to even things up just before the end of the period.
Some nice passing allowed the Panthers to gain the zone and open up a two-on-one chance down low, and Barkov slipped a backhand pass to Hornqvist in the slot. His shot was stopped by Greiss and the rebound sat tantalizingly in front until Keith Yandle swopped in, collected and fired it home with .6 seconds left on the clock.
Florida special times played a big part in the win as the Panthers went 2 for 3 on the power play and 4 for 4 on the penalty kill.
The two teams will meet again today at 5 p.m., in a likely battle of the backups, on NHL Network.
A little disappointing to see the Cats have to work overtime to beat the cellar-dwelling Red Wings, but hey, 9 out of 10 points? Take it, bank it. It’s a short season, every point in huge. It was good to see the power play come through, Bobrovsky give up less than three goals, and to beat Greiss, who has become a bit of a thorn in the team’s side. Oh yeah, and Heponiemi made his debut a pretty memorable one.
Gears & Spokes
- In addition to making some league history, Aleksi Heponiemi, who played 9:30, is the first Panther to score in his NHL debut since defenseman Jacob MacDonald did it in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay on October 6, 2018. Like Heponiemi, MacDonald scored on his first shot on goal in the NHL.
- The 4-0-1 Cats have earned at least one point in each of their first five games, the second-longest point streak to start a season in franchise history. Each of Florida’s last four games have ended in overtime or shootout.
- Aleksander Barkov’s goal was the 157th of his career, moving him into a tie with Scott Mellanby for second-most in club history.
- Juho Lammikko made his season debut and registered one shot on goal, won 4 of 8 draws, and posted an even rating in 9:00 TOI.
- The Red Wings have now lost seven straight games (0-5-2) to the Panthers. Detroit last beat the Cats on October 20, 2018.
- Thomas Greiss, who finished the game with 23 saves, remains winless. His record dropped to 0-4-2.
- Noel Acciari led the Panthers with four hits and a 71% (5/7) faceoff win percentage.
- For more of Florida’s fourth of the floor visit Winging It In Motown.