Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/12/13
The Panthers chose an odd way to raise the curtain on the Vinnie Viola era Friday night with a tease. With anticipation building the air was momentarily sucked out of the BB&T Center by the announcement that the new $4.2 million scoreboard would not be functioning for the night due to technical difficulties. Boos echoed through the arena. Ah but it was all a joke. Lights began flashing music out of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” began playing and the huge video display above center ice blinked to life. Before the puck dropped for the home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins a video tribute of Panthers history played on the high-definition video board to mark the celebration of the Panthers’ 20th anniversary season. All of the players were escorted onto the ice by youth players wearing the jerseys of original Panthers from the 1993-94 season. Then Viola joined with original team owner H. Wayne Huizenga for the ceremonial puck drop. Huizenga wore the original team leather jacket. The debut was a success with a resounding 6-3 victory over the Penguins and victory rats raining on the ice. Brad Boyes’ second goal on a power play in the final minute sealed it and provided a fitting bookend to the night. The new scoreboard built with Broward County Tourist Development Tax money was christened with the first goal when Boyes snapped a wrist shot past Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff from the right circle 1:55 into the game. Boyes was one of several veteran players signed just before the season opened after Viola took ownership of the team from Cliff Viner. The lead was short-lived as Evgeni Malkin scored for Pittsburgh less than four minutes later against Jacob Markstrom who started in goal in place of injured Tim Thomas (groin). The turning point came in the second period when power-play goals by the Panthers’ primary hopes for the future Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov gave Florida a 4-3 lead. “I think there are a lot of guys that want it tonight” Huberdeau said during the second intermission. “I think we are working hard and we are just putting pucks at the net. Have a presence out there and we are just shooting to score.” The other goals were scored by Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann two of the leaders when the Panthers won the Southeast Division in 2012 to end a decade-long playoff drought.
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