The Florida Panthers started this season as well as they could have hoped. Saturday night, Sam Bennett got his second career hat trick as the Panthers beat the visiting New York Islanders 5-1 at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.
Bennett, whose previous hat trick came when he scored four goals against the Panthers in Calgary back on Jan. 13, 2016, gave Florida a 2-0 lead and then added some insurance with his third goal in the final period.
“It was an amazing feeling,’’ said Bennett, the fourth-overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft whom Florida acquired at the trade deadline last year.
“I’ve had a lot of fun here in Florida and I think every game here I have more and more fun. We have a great team and it’s a lot of fun to be around. The atmosphere tonight was awesome in the building, so, it was a great game.”
Bennett put the Panthers up 2-0 in the second with a nice wraparound goal before Anthony Duclair got his second of the season in the final minutes of the period.
Duclair’s nice goal gave the Panthers as much of a cushion as they could have hoped for as goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was terrific.
“Bob was great,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said.
The Islanders did make it a two-goal game early in the third, but Bennett’s third marker of the night all but put things away.
Florida led 2-0 thanks to the first two goals from Bennett, then were up 3-0 after Duclair scored.
Up 3-1, Bennett got another with Sasha Barkov all but ending things with a goal at 12:22 of the third.
Florida has started its season 2-0 after beating a pair of 2021 playoff teams in Pittsburgh and the Islanders.
The Panthers’ third game comes against, well, another playoff team as they travel to face the two-time, defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay knocked the Panthers out the playoffs last year in Game 6 of the opening round.
But that’s on Tuesday.
Saturday, Florida finally beat the Islanders, ending a four-game winless streak (0-2-2) — which doesn’t include being sent home from the Toronto bubble by the Islanders in 2020.
The last time the Panthers beat the Islanders during the regular season was Nov. 10, 2018.
Florida has now won its past six regular season home games dating back to April 24, 2021 as the Panthers have won 13 of their past 14 games in Sunrise dating back to March 20, 2021.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
- WHEN: 7 p.m.
- WHERE: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: 560-AM
- 2021 regular season series: Florida won 5-3