Florida Panthers Storm Past Carolina Hurricanes
It was a script to an opening night that couldn’t have been written any better if you tried. Saturday night with a sold out crowd of 19,688 the Florida Panthers opened the season in brilliant fashion. The players were introduced one by one and greeted by original season ticket holders on the ice. Following that was the raising of the Southeast Division Championship banner to the thrill of everyone in attendance. It promised to be a magical night, and it was.
After a brief celebration of the past, the faithful fans of the Panthers got a glimpse of the foreseeable future as Jonathan Huberdeau scored the first goal of the season for Florida, and the first goal of his NHL career to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. The goal came on Huberdeau’s first shot of the game as well, which was set up beautifully by his linemates Alex Kovalev and Peter Mueller. Kovalev passed the puck to Mueller who was behind and off the side of the net, who then saw Huberdeau camped in the slot, and Jonathan made no mistake with the puck as he put it past Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward. Asked how he felt after scoring that goal:
“That made me a little less nervous for the rest of the game.”
Approximately three minutes later with the Panthers on the power play smooth skating defenceman Brian Campbell released a rocket of a slap shot, scoring top shelf to make it 2-0. Campbell wasn’t finished however as later in the period with the Panthers on the power play again, the veteran ripped another laser past Ward, this time stick side to give the Panthers a three goal advantage. Where has that shot been you ask? Doesn’t matter, but if this continues we’ll be glad he found it, as last year Campbell played the set up man for departed defensive partner Jason Garrison who scored nine times on the power play. Scottie Upshall scored on the power play less than a minute later as the Panthers only needed 11 shots against Cam Ward to build their cushion.
The Canes replaced Ward with Dan Ellis who faced nine shots in the middle period giving up one goal to veteran Alex Kovalev who put in his own rebound giving Florida a 5-0 advantage. At that point in the game there didn’t seem to be anything that could reverse the outcome, as Florida held their ground behind the 41 save night of goaltender Jose Theodore. There were some moments when Carolina applied pressure forcing Theo to make consecutive saves more than once, however there was never a doubt that Theodore was in control as he looked to be seeing the puck well, and gave up very few rebounds. Jose was pleased with his and the teams performance and said this afterwards:
“It was a 5-1 game, but when you break it down, they could have come back,” Theodore said. “That was my first game since last year. I had to be ready.”
“You saw a pretty good snap shot of his skill set,” coach Kevin Dineen said. “That was a pretty impressive debut to say the least.”
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