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Hornqvist scores twice, Florida Panthers rout Detroit Red Wings 7-2

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Any worries the Florida Panthers would sleepwalk their way through yet another game with the Detroit Red Wings were put to bed early Friday night.

The Panthers came to play.

After beating top Central Division teams Tampa Bay and Carolina earlier this week, Florida scored four in the first period and rolled to a 7-2 victory over the last-place Red Wings.

Florida will keep hold of first place in the division for at least another day.

If anyone wants to wonder whether this team is for real or not, well, that’s is their right. But when the Panthers are clicking as they were Friday, watch out.

”We feel good about ourselves but we can’t sit back because we have been winning,” said Patric Hornqvist, who scored twice Friday.

“We have to keep working, doing the right things and you see what that does for our team. When we’re playing the right way, we are as good as anyone. That’s what we showed here. Big game tomorrow.”

The two teams meet again (this will be the sixth meeting since Jan. 30) Saturday at 5.

The Panthers have won 11 of their past 13 against Detroit (11-1-1) and have a six-game winning streak at Little Caesars Arena — only losing there once since it opened in 2017.

The seven goals scored were the most of the season for the Panthers and was easily their biggest margin of victory.

The Panthers had previously beaten Chicago and Tampa Bay by three.

Florida’s previous three wins against Detroit were all one-goal affairs.

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On Friday, the Panthers jumped all over their hosts from Motown, taking a 3-0 lead on nemesis Thomas Greiss before going into the first intermission up 4-1.

In the opening period, Juho Lammikko, MacKenzie Weegar and Hornqvist all scored for a 3-0 lead before Bobby Ryan’s 40-foot slapper found its way past Chris Driedger.

Just over a minute later, Sasha Barkov scored off a loose puck from a Carter Verhaeghe offering to make it a three-goal lead once more.

”We talked before the game that we wanted to keep things simple, respect our opponents,” Anthony Duclair said. “We wanted to make sure, especially on the road, that we got off to a good start and we did just that.”

Greiss, who helped bounce the Panthers from the 2016 playoffs while with the Islanders, made nine saves in the first and was pulled in favor of Jonathan Bernier to start the second.

Before Bernier came in, the Panthers had only faced Greiss in net against the Wings this season.

Bernier more than held his own, stopping the first 10 shots he faced — before Aaron Ekblad let a one-timer fly from the left circle in the final seconds of the second period to give the Panthers a four-goal lead at intermission.

After Detroit scored at 2:49 of the third, the Panthers got it back to a four-goal game when Hornqvist got his second of the night by knocking in a rebound off a Barkov one-timer.

Midway through the period, Duclair got his second of the season — and the week — to make it a five-goal lead which is the biggest of the year for the Panthers.

”That was a really good start, a lot of speed and we did some nice things with the puck, made some nice plays,” Joel Quenneville said.

“Everyone seemed to be moving, the D was involved in the attack and off the point as well. When you score early like that, you get some momentum right off the bat and that’s what you look for on the road.”

Florida started Chris Driedger (6-1-1) for the third consecutive game and he kept his winning streak going with 29 saves.

”I feel great,” Driedger said. “Play a few in a row, that kind of gets you going a little bit, kind of gets you in to a rhythm. The guys have been playing incredible. Playing those games, getting those wins is the most important part. It has been awesome.”

The Panthers go into Saturday’s game at 11-2-2 and a three-game winning streak.

Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to get his first start in a week in the second game of this series.

First period highlights

Well, where do you start?

How about the first goal, yeah?

Lammikko, who scored his first NHL goal in his 47th game on Wednesday in Carolina, got his second Friday as he slid into the slot and fired off a shot after taking a pass from Brett Connolly.

His first goal came Wednesday as he pushed in a puck from down low.

Just over a minute later, Jonathan Huberdeau fed Weegar to make it 2-0.

Anton Stralman went to the penalty box but the Panthers, as usual, killed off that penalty leading to Hornqvist tapping in a beauty of a pass from Keith Yandle for a 3-0 lead.

Florida was working on making it 4-0 when the Wings got loose in transition, Ryan working it up the ice and letting a shot fly from atop the right circle.

Driedger, coming out to play Ryan, watched the puck sail through.

No worries, though.

The Panthers charged right back up the ice, Verhaeghe put a shot up that Greiss couldn’t handle. While sprawled on the ice, Barkov jumped on it and popped it into the net.

In the period, Florida outshot the Wings 13-9 and had four more shot attempts as well.

Second period highlights

Bernier didn’t face his first shot on net until Barkov charged the net a few minutes in, drawing a penalty in the process.

Detroit did a nice job reining in the Florida power play, killing it off without surrendering a shot on goal.

The Panthers did get a number of scoring chances, including two big ones from Ryan Lomberg that Bernier stopped.

Florida finally added to its lead with 21.5 seconds remaining in the second when Ekblad fired off a booming shot off a pass from Weegar.

The Panthers outshot the Wings 12-10 in the period as Detroit showed signs of life.

Driedger was forced to make a number of big saves — including a stick save on Darren Helm — to keep Detroit at one goal as Florida kept the Wings from realistically getting back into the game.

“They had a chance there to make it 4-2 and we went 5-1 and it could have been a different game,” Quenneville said.

“I thought that was a turning point off a great start. … It was a good way to go into the third having that (Ekblad) extra one.”

Said Driedger: “I have to look back at that one because I was so out of position … Sometimes you just get some breaks and I was down-and-out and in a crawl at the net so I threw something at it. I got lucky to get the paddle on it.”

Third period highlights

Detroit got its third power play of the night early in the period when Duclair got called for hooking, but again, the Panthers killed it off.

Detroit did get on the board to make it 5-2 when Val Filppula’s shot hit Duclair’s stick in front of the net and the puck rode up and over Driedger’s head.

“On the ice I told him ‘my bad,’ Duclair joked. “But after the game I told him he should’ve saved that.”

The Wings never did find a way back, however, as Hornqvist made it a four-goal game again as the Panthers cashed in on the power play.

That came not long after Florida had a flurry of action around the net in which Lomberg, Connolly and Lammikko all had scoring chances.

Midway through the period, Barkov fed Duclair to make it 7-2.

Detroit got another power play with 4:26 left as Lomberg went to the box but it was Frank Vatrano with a nice shorthanded chance before Mathias Brome had a big opportunity off a loose puck that Driedger ended up stopping.

Florida is now 23-for-23 against the Detroit power play this season as the Wings haven’t scored with the man advantage in their past 33 tries overall.

Up Next: Florida Panthers at Detroit Red Wings

When: Saturday, 5 p.m.

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/Radio: FSN/560-AM

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Ben Seigel

4th line looked great. Lomberg had a really strong effort. Hope they keep rolling

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