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Vladimir Tarasenko has Special Night for Florida Panthers in Front of Family

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Anton Lundell and Vladimir Tarasenko celebrate after the Florida Panthers beat the Calgary Flames 5-1 in Sunrise on Saturday night. Tarasenko had a pair of goals and three points in his second game with his new team. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

SUNRISE — When Vladimir Tarasenko got traded to the Florida Panthers, he first thought about spending time with his family, who reside in nearby Weston.

He got a big taste of that on Saturday, when the Panthers brought out all of the players’ kids for a special moment during the national anthems.

Tarasenko certainly showed off for his family in a 5-1 win over the Calgary Flames.

“I’ve never experienced something like this in my life,” said Tarasenko, who scored twice in his second game with the Panthers and ended with three points. 

“Our older son is still in Canada; he is going to come join us soon, and I missed him today. The two younger ones had a chance to enjoy it, and like I said, I’ve never done anything like this, so I think that was a big deal for them, and I’m going to go ask them how they feel.”

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Somewhere between the special moment during the anthems and watching their dad score his first two goals as a Panther, they must have felt pretty good.

Tarasenko felt good about getting his first goal as a Panther as quickly as he did as he continued to adjust to a completely different system in Florida.

“I’m not gonna lie, it’s nice,” Tarasenko said. “It’s a relief. It’s nice to understand your linemates more, the system, and how the team plays, and I felt (more) comfortable as the game goes on, and I’m not gonna lie, it feels nice.”

On top of his two goals, Tarasenko added another assist and started to gel with linemates Sasha Barkov and Sam Reinhart.

The talented goal scorer has already channeled his elite hockey sense into the defensive end of the ice countless times — as his linemates are both known for — to create offense and snuff out some plays in the defensive zone.

“[I liked] how smart all three of those guys are,” coach Paul Maurice said. “They are not very far apart, the anticipation of where the puck will go but they were never in a position to give something up. There’s almost no risk in their game for highly skilled offensive players. They were right on both sides of the puck, so that’s exciting for us.”

It was apparent right from Tarasenko’s first goal as a Panther that he had the same mindset as his two linemates.

He was in the right position to reach out and get his stick into a passing lane, force a turnover from former Florida mainstay Jonathan Huberdeau, and quickly regain possession to roof a wrist shot from the slot to open the scoring 23 seconds into the second period.

“It’s a good way for the players he is playing with to get to know him because both Barkov and Reinhart, we have talked all year about how these are special, bright guys, and he can think with them and talk with them,” Maurice said. “They are on the bench, and they talk all the time, so it’ll be interesting to see where they can take their game. I think they are all capable of being really good, very impactful against elite talent. That’s a special line.”

Tarasenko made an impact again immediately after the Flames tied the game five minutes later, chipping a pass off the boards to send Reinhart and Barkov on a 2-on-1 on the following shift.

Barkov wired a one-timer past Calgary goalie Jacob Markstrom off a feed from Reinhart to give the Panthers a lead they would never relinquish.

“With the players I’m playing with right now, and even before, really, it’s easy to adjust with those types of guys,” Barkov said of his line.

“Obviously [Reinhart] is an amazing player, a really smart player. It’s always easy with that guy. Vladi can score. He can make plays. He’s very dangerous when he has the puck on his stick – or even without the puck. Playing with those two guys, we’ll always try and be as dangerous as possible.”

A minute after Sam Bennett made it a 3-1 game, Tarasenko got right back to work.

He lifted a wrist shot from the face-off circle past Markstrom with 5:05 to go in the second period and put the game well out of reach for Calgary.

With contributions from Kevin Stenlund via a shorthanded goal in the third and a 34-of-35 save performance from Anthony Stolarz, the Panthers picked up their 17th win in their past 20 games and retained first place in the NHL standings.

Florida has now been atop the standings for 10 days.

“It’s nice to join a team who wins many games. We had some successful years in St. Louis, I know how it is,” Tarasenko said. 

“There is a reason for playing hockey. The goal, as high as possible, is to win the [Stanley] Cup. It’s nice to join a group where it seems like everybody is really nice.”

And throughout his first two games as a Panther, Tarasenko could sense the appreciation fans in South Florida had for a player of his stature — a perennial 30-goal scorer — to choose them as his desired destination.

Every time his name was announced, the ovation was loud — and he noticed.

“You can tell there was a lot of improvement after last year’s success and the new practice facility, and it’s unbelievable,” Tarasenko said. “I don’t really remember anything. I kind of blacked out the first game and very nervous, and today, a lot of things happened. But it’s very nice to feel the support.”

The Panthers did lose Aaron Ekblad and Evan Rodrigues to seperate lower-body injuries during the game.

Maurice said both would be evaluated on Sunday and the team would know more about the injuries then.

After being pressed on Ekblad a bit, he said things may not be too serious.

“He’s going to be OK,” Maurice said. “I don’t know when he is coming back, it could be practice Monday or maybe a little longer.”

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ DALLAS STARS

  • When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: AmericanAirlines Center, Dallas
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season: Dallas won 2-0
  • This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Stars 4 (Dec. 6). At Dallas: Tuesday.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 25-21-2, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday @ Carolina, 7 p.m.

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