Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice and Spencer Knight recorded his first NHL shutout as the Florida Panthers beat the host Anaheim Ducks 3-0 at Honda Center on Friday night.
The victory and the individual accomplishments were overshadowed by Aaron Ekblad having to be helped off the ice after appearing to sustain a right leg injury on his first shift of the game.
Ekblad, who suffered a serious injury to his left leg almost one year ago in Dallas, was hit along the boards by Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler, pushing him up on the glass.
Florida’s Sasha Barkov lost his footing and crashed into the two entangled players and Ekblad’s knee appeared to turn.
As a few scrums broke out, Ekblad crawled back toward the Florida bench, unable to get to his feet.
Florida’s medical staff came out onto the ice and helped him up, although Ekblad could not put any weight on the right leg.
He did not return to the game, the team citing a “lower body injury.’’
UPDATE: After the game, coach Andrew Brunette said there was no structural damage and the “hope” is Ekblad will be out short term.
“It’s not last year,” Brunette said. “He’s going to be OK.”
The Panthers, playing seven defensemen with Patric Hornqvist out, got off to an understandably slow start after the Ekblad injury.
Florida got its first goal of the night at 13:54 of the first when Huberdeau one-timed a nice pass from Sam Reinhart.
With seven seconds left in the period, Huberdeau beat Anaheim goalie John Gibson off a pass from Barkov.
Huberdeau, it should be noted, took his third roughing penalty over the past four games.
Knight, making his fourth start of this four-game west coast trip, only had to face four shots in an opening period that Florida controlled.
The Panthers kept things going in the second, Joe Thornton making it 3-0 at 3:44 after following up a rebound off a wraparound attempt by Noel Acciari.
Florida was outshooting the Ducks 23-6 at the time.
Knight, who had never made more than two consecutive NHL starts before this trip, made 17 saves to record his first shutout with the Panthers.
He left Boston College to sign with Florida a year ago this month.
With the win, Florida went 2-1-1 on the west coast trip which started with a shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night.
The Panthers then beat the San Jose Sharks in overtime thanks to a pair of goals from Frank Vatrano (who was traded to the Rangers the following day) before losing 5-3 in Las Vegas on Thursday.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Spencer Knight, Florida
2. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida
3. Joe Thornton, Florida