SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers were not all that happy with how things ended the last time they faced the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 2.
They were out for revenge after a Jason Zucker hit on Nick Cousins left the locker room favorite with a concussion which has kept him out of the lineup ever since.
And they got just that in a 6-2 beatdown of the Coyotes on Wednesday night.
The Panthers quickly let their frustrations from their last meeting with the Coyotes out before the puck even dropped.
Several players from both sides met near center ice to talk things over during warm-ups.
“We said a lot of words,” Jonah Gadjovich said. “Not a lot of nice words that I probably shouldn’t repeat, but sometimes stuff like that happens and we’re here to answer the bell.”
That bell was blaring from the second the game started as Ryan Lomberg lined up to take a rare draw on the opening face-off.
Lomberg proceeded to drop the gloves with Coyotes forward Jack McBain five seconds into the game, get a few haymakers in and energize the crowd with one of his signature hair flips.
“He’s the new face-off man,” coach Paul Maurice joked. “We’ll save that one for special occasions.”
Gadjovich quickly jumped into the fight club, throwing with Liam O’Brien two seconds later to further the message.
While Zucker escaped unscathed, although participating in the meeting of the minds during warm-ups, the message was sent from the jump.
Later in the game, it appeared Lomberg tried getting Zucker to dance but he declined.
“Stuff like that happens,” said Matthew Tkachuk, who kept the full details of the conversation to himself.
“But that’s just the way the game kind of went. Last game trickled over into this one and we’re here to stick up for each other and every one of our teammates. We’re brothers in here and what we go through year in and year out and throughout the season, that brings us so much closer together. So we weren’t happy to see that. We’re here to stick up for each and every person in this locker room.”
Tkachuk seized the momentum from the early fireworks quickly, firing a wayward shot front he halfwall past Karel Vejmelka 1:53 into the first period to put the Panthers ahead.
The floodgates opened from there.
Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett scored goals within 15 seconds of each other near the midway point of the first to send the Panthers to their locker room with a 3-0 lead.
Tkachuk’s second of the night and Anton Lundell’s second goal in three games put Florida up by five heading into the second period.
But it was Gadjovich, he who helped start the game’s opening fireworks, who finished it.
The 6-foot-2 enforcer found himself all alone in the slot after Kevin Stenlund fended off a clearing attempt at the blue line and fired a pass his way.
And he made the most of it, making a slick move to the backhand and beating Vejmelka for his first goal as a Panther after 19 games.
“It’s nice to get a goal, it’s been a while,” Gadjovich said with a chuckle. “But ya know, every day, I just try to show up and I try to do my best to contribute any way I can.
“A little bit of a monkey off the back there.”
The goal was just the fifth of Gadjovich’s 98-game career and his first since Feb. 7; it is one that got the rest of his teammates pumped.
“Lomberg and Gadjovich are great at what they do and they’re great for this team,” Tkachuk said. “What they did to start there was awesome for us and it definitely gave us so much energy, and positive energy, from the start and we were able to roll with that.”
Even after goals from Dylan Guenther and Logan Cooley spoiled a shutout bid for Sergei Bobrovsky, their mood certainly wasn’t spoiled.
In an all-around effort for the Panthers, five players had multi-point games while their All-Star netminder stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced.
Sasha Barkov also picked up an assist of his own in limited playing time in his return from a lower-body injury that kept him out for three games.
“It was awesome,” Tkachuk said. “Tons of energy from our team before the game even started. Not too thrilled with the way it ended over there in Arizona. I thought we brought it tonight and we brought it from the start. It’s good to see everybody pitch in and just have a really good group effort.”
For more Panthers news from the FHN Team
Bookmark Florida Hockey Now; Subscribe for Exclusives
Follow us on Twitter: @GeorgeRichards // @ColbyDGuy // @TheGovMan
Subscribe to the FHN YouTube Channel
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: PPG Arena, Pittsburgh
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
- Season Series (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 3, Penguins 1 (Dec. 8). At Pittsburgh: Friday; Feb. 14.
- Last Season: Penguins won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Penguins lead 56-37-7, 4 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday at New York Islanders, 7 p.m.