SUNRISE — After every win, the Florida Panthers blast Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire on the sound system in their room and gym.
Sam Reinhart has certainly lit a match.
Reinhart is off to a blazing start, scoring 11 goals with 21 points in his first 14 games.
He added two goals and two primary assists in a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon.
“That’s just his game,” coach Paul Maurice said. “He has this great balance of intensity and other times thinking his way to find holes. He’s got such great hands around the net. I’m happy for him because he’s worked hard to get himself to that point.”
His play on both ends of the ice has helped ignite the Panthers to a scorching start.
Florida finds itself on a four-game winning streak and is 9-2-1 since dropping its first two games of the new season.
“We’ve won games in all sorts of ways,” Reinhart said. “We’ve had a lot of close ones recently. We’re comfortable in those situations now and as you pile them up on each other, you just build that confidence even more.”
Reinhart has helped the Panthers win games in every fashion imaginable, too.
He has formed a formidable pairing with Sasha Barkov on the penalty kill, which has been nearly unbeatable since starting the season dead last in the league.
In the past eight games, the PK is running on an 18-for-20 clip and that pairing up front has been a big reason why.
Reinhart has also scored four of Florida’s seven power-play goals in what has admittedly been a slow start for the unit.
But he did have points on both power play goals in what was the Panthers’ first multi-PPG outing of the season on Sunday.
”He’s just a smart player and he is making everybody he plays with so much better,” Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “He has good hockey sense and he sees the ice very well, so he’s making good plays out there.”
On Sunday, Reinhart found himself in a shootout with star rookie Connor Bedard and he came out on top.
Reinhart helped get things going quickly, connecting with Ekman-Larsson 39 seconds into the game on a quick tic-tac-toe play to put the Panthers ahead.
Jason Dickinson tied things up 7:04 in, stuffing in a Lukas Reichel rebound that trickled through Sergei Bobrovksy’s five-hole.
Reinhart then deflected a Matthew Tkachuk shot past Arvid Soderblom on the power play with 8:06 to go in the first period.
Bedard got his answer with 56 seconds to go in the first.
The 18-year-old stripped Kevin Stenlund of the puck and beat Bobrovsky with a wide-angle shot to tie the game back up.
Nobody was blaming Stenlund or Bobrovsky after that one.
“He has an unbelievable release,” Maurice said of Bedard. “He has the ability to change angles because the goals he scored against us were not great-angle goals, but they’re still really good shots because he changes the angles. It’s hard to read and he is going to score an awful lot of those.”
Said Bobrovsky: “He’s got the good, quick release. He beat me twice. I tip my hat to him.”
Reinhart restored Florida’s lead with an oddly-angled shot of his own.
He banked a shot off of the back of Soderblom’s leg and into the net seven minutes into the second period to make it a 3-2 game.
Bedard answered back 1:16 later with a quick shot off the rush.
Carter Verhaeghe stuffed a Reinhart rebound past Soderblom on the power play 2:44 into the third for the deciding blow.
Bobrovsky turned away all 13 shots he faced in the third — and 23 of 26 overall — to help the Panthers secure the win.
Florida’s defense did not give him a grueling workload, allowing just 11 scoring chances and four high-danger chances per Natrual Stat Trick.
Overall, this Panthers defense is in the top 10 in fewest goals allowed, scoring chances allowed and high-danger chances allowed this season.
And, again, this is a defense that has been operating without stars Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad.
“It’s been really impressive,” said Sam Bennett, who returned to the lineup on Sunday after being out with an injuries of his own for all but one period.
“They’ve all been close games, so it goes to show that the guys are stepping up and playing big roles right now. When we get those two guys back, it’s going to be a nice little boost to our team as well.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ SAN JOSE SHARKS
- When: Tuesday, 10:30 p.m.
- Where: SAP Center; San Jose, Calif.
- Streaming ONLY: ESPN+/Hulu
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5 FM-2; 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 Leads 1-0: @Florida 3, San Jose 1 (Oct. 24); @San Jose, Tuesday
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 22-13-1, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. (BSF)