SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers picked up where they left off last season on home ice, dashing the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in their opener at FLA Live Arena.
Two first period goals from Carter Verhaeghe helped the Panthers improve to 35-7-0 in Sunrise since the start of the 2021-22 season.
Florida played its first game since placing star defenseman Aaron Ekblad on long-term injured reserve on Wednesday morning.
This is the third time the team has missed Ekblad with a lower-body injury in the past three seasons. They improved to 32-9-1 without their franchise blueliner in the lineup during that span.
Verhaeghe started things off quickly, firing a laser of a wrist shot from the face-off circle past Flyers goalie Felix Sandstrom to give Florida a 1-0 lead just 5:06 into the game.
That was not the last time that song would be heard on Wednesday night.
The Flyers thought they tied the game up with 12:56 to go in the first after Travis Koncecny scored with a snap shot from the slot. The Panthers challenged it and won after it was deemed Joel Farabee was offside after a botched exchange at the blue line.
Verhaeghe then bursted up the offensive zone with speed a minute and a half later and sent a quick snap shot past Sandstrom for his second goal of the game to double Florida’s lead with to go in the first period.
The Panthers had a golden opportunity to increase their lead on the power play with 5:58 to go but could not get things going after a Sam Reinhart miss sent the puck back into their defensive zone.
Seconds after the penalty expired, Nick Seeler struck with a goal from in front to put Philadelphia on the board with 3:26 to go in the first period.
After three strong penalty kills starting late in the first period, the Panthers finally got burned in the second period.
James van Reimsdyk picked up a rebound of a Farabee shot and slid it past Bobrovsky to tie the game up with 4:44 to go in the frame.
The Panthers got the lead back quickly with a Rudolfs Balcers backhander on the breakaway 3:51 into the third period.
Josh Mahura tacked on his first goal as a Panther with a snipe from the left face-off circle to extend Florida’s lead to 4-2 with 10:52 to go.
Konecny got his disallowed goal back with 1.9 seconds to go to cut Florida’s lead to 4-3.
Florida finished 0-for-3 on the power play after opting to roll with a five-man top unit due to the absences of Ekblad and Brandon Montour.
They generated numerous good looks but Sandstrom stood strong and stopped all five shots he faced while shorthanded.
The Panthers finished the night 5-for-6 on the penalty kill.
Sergei Bobrovsky ended his night with 33 saves.
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida (two goals)
2. Rudy Balcers, Florida (game-winning goal)
3. Sasha Barkov, Florida (two assists, 600th NHL game)
PANTHERS ON DECK
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- Streaming ONLY: ESPN+/Hulu
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Split four regular season games; Tampa won second-round playoff series 4-0
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 73-49-18, 10 ties