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After beating Colorado, the Florida Panthers are in first — and for real

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Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30 shots as he is now 3-0 this season as Thursday’s 4-1 win over Colorado marked his 300th NHL victory. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

The Florida Panthers came pretty close to losing their first game against the Penguins last Thursday, falling behind 4-2 in the third period before rallying to win in overtime.

Things have not been that close again as the southernmost team in the NHL has matched the league’s northernmost in the standings.

By virtue of beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Thursday night in Sunrise, the Panthers are tied for the league lead with four wins in four games.

Only the Edmonton Oilers have done the same.

Sure, it has only been a week but could you imagine a Florida-Edmonton Stanley Cup Final?

The flight connections alone make that seem like a problem.

Anyway, we’ll get to that long bridge when we cross it.

Right now, the Panthers are the hottest thing in hockey.

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They are atop the NHL.com power rankings after beating four playoff teams (Pittsburgh, the Islanders, Tampa Bay and now Colorado) in succession to kick off the 2021-22 season.

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”I think we’re having a lot of fun right now,’’ Sasha Barkov said. “Coming to the rink every day since Day 1, working hard every day … we really like being around each other. We put the work in and go home. Right now we’re just having a lot of fun and enjoying playing hard hockey. We’ve beat a lot of good teams so far, really good tests for us right away to the start of the season and I think we’ve done pretty well.

“Right now we’ve just got to keep rolling. We don’t think about how good we are. We’ve just got to build from this.”

The Panthers have never started a season 4-0 in their history, so that’s something, right?

And the way they have been playing, they look legit.

“I think we’ve gotten better. The last two were better than the first two,’’ Joel Quenneville said.

“There is some progress there. I think that consistency is something we wanted to stress coming into the season and the start was going to be very critical for what’s going to happen at the end and we played some good opponents. There have been some good signs.’’

Thursday night, the Panthers took a 1-0 lead on a fantastic play from Mason Marchment which led to Sam Reinhart’s first goal with his new team.

Marchment flew down the ice and beat Samuel Girard into the corner for the puck to negate an icing call. He then spun, fired a pass to Reinhart who scored.

Tied at 1 going into the second, Sam Bennett gave Florida the lead for good with its second power play goal of the season as he fired in a shot from 25 feet out.

Up 2-1, Carter Verhaeghe gave the Panthers some breathing room in the final minute of the second as he battled for the puck along the wall, kept possession and slid into the slot for the third goal of the night.

Anton Lundell got his second goal in as many games by tossing the puck into the empty net with 1:13 left.

The star of the night, however, was Bobrovsky.

In the opener against the Penguins, he gave up four goals — but really, there was only one he had a chance on.

Over the three games he has started this season, Bobrovsky has allowed basically a goal a game.

Not too shabby.

“I felt comfortable, I felt good,’’ he said. “I was able to read the game and read the plays. It’s fun. We have a great atmosphere in the building and the fans keep us going. It’s a pleasure to play for them, to perform in front of them.”

Thursday night marked Bobrovsky’s 300th NHL win and afterward, he credited his teammates in Philadelphia, Columbus and Sunrise for helping him get to such a milestone.

“It definitely means something,’’ he said. “I’ve been fortunate to play with the great players, great defensemen and forwards and teams. I appreciate them for this milestone. …

“If you look back, it feels like [it started so long ago], but at the same time it [feels] like yesterday, you know, the time flies. As I said last time, I try to enjoy the everyday here at the rink and with my teammates.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

  • WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
  • WHERE: Wells Fargo Arena, Philadelphia
  • TICKETS: CLICK HERE
  • TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
  • RADIO: 99.9 FM-2
  • 2021 regular season series: Did not play

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