Recap: Panthers hold off Flyers for 4-3 win in home-opener

Verhaeghe brace, Balcers go-ahead goal power Cats to two points

It was a night of firsts at FLA Live Arena last night.

The Florida Panthers won its first home game of the season by a 4-3 count over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Philadelphia lost its first game of the 2022-23 campaign, ending new head coach John Tortorella’s three-game run of wins.

Carter Verhaeghe scored his first two goals of the season. He sniped Felix Sandstrom, who was making his first start of the year, twice in a 2:32 span early in the first period to give the Cats a 2-0 lead. Verhaeghe’s first goal was set up Aleksander Barkov and Radko Gudas while Gustav Forsling and Barkov got the helpers on the second.

The  Verhaeghe markers were the first two goals Florida’s first line has scored this season.

Flyers defenseman Nick Seeler notched his first of campaign with 3:39 left in the frame to cut the lead in half. Kevin Hayes got the primary assist and Zack MacEwen got the second assist, his first point of the season.

After James van Riemsdyk tied the tilt with a power-play goal late in the second period, from Travis Konency and Ivan Provorov, free agent pickup Rudolfs Balcers took a sweet little pass from Sam Bennett and roofed a backhand over Sandstrom 3:51 into the third for his first in a Panthers uniform. Matthew Tkachuk extended his scoring streak to four games with the secondary helper.

Bennett and Tkachuk would get the assists again on what ended up being the game-winner. Recent waiver claim Josh Mahura sent a knuckling shot past Sandstrom for his first goal with the Florida to put the Cats by two again at the 9:08 mark. It was the first GWG of Mahura’s NHL career.

Sergei Bobrovsky stood tall in the final stanza, stopping 18 of 19 shots to finish with a total of 31 saves. The Flyers tacked on a meaningless goal with three ticks left on the clock when Hayes faked a slapper and sent a cross over to Konecny, who finished into an empty net with Bobrovsky caught out of position. Tony DeAngelo also collected an assist on the fine play by Hayes.

With blueliners Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour out, Matt Kiersted and Lucas Carlsson each made their first appearance of the season. Kiersted played 13:15 and registered two shots and two hits. Carlsson logged 10:36 of ice time and finished with one shot, two hits and a block.

The 3-1 Panthers will take on the struggling Tampa Lightning in Sunrise on Friday night.

Lift & Drag

  • Matthew Tkachuk became the fifth player in franchise history with a point streak of at least four games at the start of his tenure with the team, joining Ray Whitney (seven games in 1997-98), Pavel Bure (six in 1998-99), Kris Versteeg (four in 2011-12) and Carter Verhaeghe (four in 2020-21). Tkachuk leads the team in scoring with six points.
  • Aleksander Barkov reached a milestone by playing in his 600th NHL game. Barkov had two helpers, two shots and won 68% of his draws.
  • Speaking of milestones, Kevin Hayes’ first assist of the game was his 200th in the NHL.
  • Eetu Luostarinen and Colin White each had their three-game point streaks come to end. A quiet night for White, while Luostarinen had two shots on goal and a block.
  • Florida kept Felix Sandstrom winless in the NHL (0-5-1), but the 25-year-old Swede did come up with some nice stops. He finished with 31 saves in his season debut.
  • After sweeping the Flyers last season, the Cats picked up  another win. Get the other side at Broad Street Hockey./