After giving up seven goals twice in three games, the Florida Panthers finally figured out a way to put together some offensive fireworks of their own in a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. It was Florida’s home opener and a much needed performance to bring their record to 2-3-0.
After scoring just one power play goal in their first four games, the Panthers scored two on four opportunities against the reigning Eastern Conference No. 1 seed. They also kept the Penguins power play in check, shutting them down on the three opportunities they had in the game.
Florida didn’t trail all night and gave fans a lot to be excited about. Newly acquired Brad Boyes notched home two goals, Kris Versteeg proved healthy by adding another, and Tomas Fleischmann tallied a goal and three assists. Young guns Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov also scored in the game. Barkov’s goal actually proved to be the game winner. It was his first of what fans hope to be many of his young career.
Perhaps the most impressive feat from the game was the performance by 23-year old goaltender Jacob Markstrom. He faced 39 shots and kept 36 of them out of the net. Markstrom will be heavily relied on while Tim Thomas recovers from an injury suffered in Philadelphia against the Flyers.
The win helped to prove the Panthers are not the laughing stock of the NHL that they were just a season ago. They have plenty of players that can play. As long as the team stays healthy, there’s not a team in the league that can overlook them on their schedule.
The home opener marked the 20th anniversary of the Florida Panthers franchise. The expansion of the team came in 1993. In their previous 19 seasons, the Panthers managed to make the playoffs just four times. Their first playoff appearance, back in the 1995-96 season, resulted in a Stanley Cup Finals trip, where they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in four games.
The Panthers will look to keep the momentum going as they host the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
Matt Schreiber is the Florida Panthers Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers. He grew up just outside of Washington, DC before moving to Boca Raton, FL, where he currently resides. He also covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.