SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers rode off the energy of their sellout crowd and defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in their home opener on Thursday night.
Sergei Bobrovsky gave them even more reasons to cheer, stopping 29 of 30 shots and moving to second in franchise history in wins with his 106th.
He passed John Vanbiesbrouck and is now only behind Roberto Luongo, who holds the record with 230.
After a quick pregame ode to their run to the 2023 Stanley Cup Final and the unveiling of their Eastern Conference Champions banner, the attention and excitement quickly shifted to the 2023-24 season.
Well, not before the Amerant Bank Arena crowd made a nod to the “We Want Florida” chant Maple Leafs fans made ahead of the Panthers’ second-round victory over them last year.
The Panthers kept their foot on the gas, controlling play for most of the first period.
The payoff finally hit with 2:52 to go in the opening frame, when Kevin Stenlund unloaded a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle for his first goal as a Panther.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his first as a Panther with 6.9 to go in the first, sending a shot from the point past Ilya Samsonov to give Florida a 2-0 lead.
The Maple Leafs answered back just after the midway point of the second period.
Mitch Marner slid a John Tavares rebound past Bobrovsky with 8:08 to go in the second period to make it a 2-1 game.
Toronto nearly tied the game when chaos ensued near the front of the Florida net in the dying seconds of the third period.
Uvis Balinskis tripped Noah Gregor as he was driving to the net and the Maple Leafs got a couple of shots off as the net was falling off its moorings.
One hit the bottom of the crossbar after the net was already off.
After a review from the officials, the play was deemed a no go and Balinskis was assessed a tripping penalty.
The Maple Leafs did not muster up a single shot on the ensuing power play.
Sam Reinhart sealed the game with an empty-net goal at the buzzer.
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Panthers 1, Maple Leafs 0 (17:08, 1st): Kevin Stenlund uncorked a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle for his first goal of the season.
- Panthers 2, Maple Leafs 0 (19:53, 1st): Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored with a point shot in the waning seconds of the first.
- Panthers 2, Maple Leafs 1 (11:52, 2nd, PP): Mitch Marner slid a John Tavares rebound past Sergei Bobrovsky on the power play.
- Panthers 3, Maple Leafs 1 (19:59, 3rd ENG): Sam Reinhart scores at the buzzer as the Panthers survive a big 6-on-4 chance for the Leafs.
COLBY’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida (29 saves)
2. Kevin Stenlund, Florida (goal)
3. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Florida (goal)
PANTHERS ON DECK
VANCOUVER CANUCKS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
- Last Season: Florida won 2-0
- This Season: @ Florida, Saturday; @ Vancouver, Dec. 14.
- All-time Regular Season Series: Vancouver leads 18-13-4, 6 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday vs. San Jose, 7:45 p.m.