Florida Panthers 5, Colorado Avalanche 2

On Saturday night in Sunrise, the Panthers defeated the Avalanche, 5-2.

On Saturday night in Sunrise, Florida, the Florida Panthers defeated the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

Blake Comeau gave the Avalanche an early lead, scoring with 7:38 gone in the first period after redirecting a Tyson Barrie shot from the point to open the scoring. It was Comeau’s first goal of the season, with assists to Barrie (3) and Matt Duchene. The goal, scored with the man-advantage, was the first power play marker surrendered by the Panthers this season in nine opposing opportunities. After two more penalty kill situations through the rest of the game, their 90.9% success rate still leads the NHL, and is nine points above the league average.

Aaron Ekblad scored his first goal of the season in the second period, in fact tallying his first point of the year with just 1:30 gone in the frame. The power play goal was just Florida’s second for the season, and became possible due to some nifty passing from Jaromir Jagr (2). Jon Marchessault (4) scored his sixth point of the season with the secondary assist, leading the Panthers through their first five games. The marker tied the score at one, where it would remain for the lion’s share of the middle period.

The Panthers took the lead with three minutes remaining in the second period on a highlight-reel give-and-go between Shane Harper and Greg McKegg. Harper - who leads the Panthers with 11 penalty minutes already, beat Semyon Varlamov low on the glove side for the 2-1 advantage. Along with McKegg, Derek MacKenzie also earned his second assist of the season on the play.

Marchessault buried the biscuit unassisted to open the scoring with 4:30 elapsed in the third period, beating Varlamov five-hole after intercepting a Joe Colborne to Blake Comeau pass deep in Florida’s zone and skating the length of the ice on a breakaway chance. Marchessault not only leads the Panthers with four assists and seven points overall, he also led the team with three goals (for just under three minutes anyway). The score doubled Florida’s lead to 3-1.

Harper, obviously not satisfied with just one goal, added his second goal of the night on a two-on-one break with Alex Petrovic just under a minute later. Petrovic took the puck from Gabriel Landeskog deep in Florida’s zone, then skated up the right side of the ice with Harper smacking the surface with his stick, asking for the puck. Petro obliged, feeding Harper for the nifty one-timer to blow the game wide open, 4-1. It was Petrovic’s second assist of the season.

The Avalanche got it back just 16 seconds later, on Matt Duchene’s third goal of the season. Assists were awarded to Patrick Wiercioch and Carl Soderberg. Wiercioch collected an errant Soderberg shot, which went all the way around the cage and nearly escaped the zone before Weircioch saved it for the Avs. Duchene collected the rebound to beat Roberto Luongo stick side to make it 4-2, Panthers.

Vincent Trocheck added an insurance marker and matched Marchessault with his third goal of the year with 13 minutes remaining in regulation. Trocheck got the puck into the zone initially by being faster than anyone else on the ice. When Varlamov failed to cover the loose puck, Trocheck stuffed it between his pads for a 5-2 Florida lead.

Blizzards and Landslides

Try to wrap your head around this: Alekander Barkov is currently the longest tenured player on Florida’s active roster, ranking 50th on the all-time list with 196 games played. Nick Bjugstad (40th, 226 games) and Jonathan Huberdeau (28th, 272 games) both rank ahead, although their both laid up with injuries thus far this season.

Trocheck’s 40th career goal ties him with Juraj Kolnik and Brandon Pirri in 34th all-time.

Ekblad’s 48th career assist moved him into Florida’s all-time top 50, in a tie with Tomas Kopecky, Bret Hedican, and Keith Ballard for 48th on the list.

Even though the Cats got the W last night, they almost never bring their best stuff against Colorado. At 12-18-6 through their history, Florida’s .417 point percentage is their worst against all but four other opponents, all Western Conference foes (Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues).

For the third time in Florida’s first five games, the penalty kill unit outshot the opponent’s power play unit. In fact, Colorado’s power play goal came on just the second shot on goal in five games so far this season against the Panthers.

On the advanced stat front, we’re shown that Jason Demers and Michael Mathseon had the best nights for the Panthers possession-wise., with Corsi-Rel% figures of 24.6% and 18.6%, respectively. Jarome Iginla (15.3%) and Gabriel Landeskog (21.2%) were the only Colorado players in the same neighborhood. Alex Petrovic (-21.6%) and Gabriel Bourque (-25.3%) had the worst nights for their respective teams.

Florida’s 3-1-1 start is tied for their third best in franchise history. They last racked up seven points in their first five games in 2006-07, when they finished the season with a 35-31-16 record.

Hockey-reference.com Box Score.

NHL.COM gamecenter

Next up for the Panthers, their first proper road trip of the season, with games against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, and the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday before returning home.