Found January 20, 2013 on
Fox Sports Florida:
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers opened their season with a subdued banner raising. They waited until the puck dropped to set off the fireworks.
Florida began its defense of the Southeast Division title Saturday night, unleashing its revamped second line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Peter Mueller and Alex Kovalev on the unassuming Carolina Hurricanes. The trio combined for two goals and five assists in the Panthers' 5-1 win.
Following his team's morning skate, Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said he felt more prepared for the Panthers' game plan this season.
High-tempo. Up-and-down. Run-and-gun.
"They gave us a little trouble last year because of the style they play," Muller said. "We know them better now."
At least he thought they did.
Enter's the Panthers' second line. Or perhaps now, its first.
The Panthers, who ranked 27th in offense last season with just 197 goals, built a 5-0 lead 24 minutes into the game. And Florida's power play, which many predicted to see a dropoff in production following the departure of free agent defenseman Jason Garrison, converted on each of its first three chances.
Florida's Scottie Upshall expressed no surprise over the trio's quick emergence.
"We've been watching them in practice every day," Upshall said. "Those guys are all talented."
Huberdeau, still shaking butterflies from his first NHL shift, opened the scoring 3:37 into the game by stuffing the puck between Cam Ward's pads for his first NHL goal.
"I thought the defenseman was going to pick me up, and he just left me alone," said Huberdeau, who as the team's top player had the honor of sporting a red velvet Three Musketeers hat lined white feathers following the game. "That was good for me. I scored because of that."
After the goal, Huberdeau looked like a season pro. He registered five shots and two assists, including a highlight-reel setup on Upshall's power play tally late in the first.
Huberdeau carried the puck across the blueline, this time drawing the attention of the Hurricanes defense. The rookie deked a couple times in the slot, then slid the puck to Upshall as he reached the right faceoff dot. Upshall said it was Huberdeau's moves that gave him just enough time to get into position.
"I saw him look at me as I came across the blueline," Upshall said. "He made two moves to beat some guys and put it right where I like to shoot it. It was just a case of letting him do his magic and putting it on net."
Kovalev, meanwhile, turned defenseman Brian Campbell from setup man to sniper.
The 39-year-old Kovalev settled the tempo of the power play, dishing passes back and forth with Campbell, who ultimately converted on a one-timer for his second power play goal. Prior to Saturday, Campbell had just one two-goal game in his career.
Campbell, whose passes helped Garrison record a 16-goal campaign in 2011-12, found himself wondering if he might match his former teammate's feat with the Russian at his side.
"I'm definitely going to be texting Garrison tonight," Campbell said.
"Alex is unbelievable to watch," Upshall said. "If you ask anyone in our league who the most talented player has been over the last 10 years, its Kovalev. The things he's able to do for the younger guys on the team and to watch his playmaking skills is awesome."
Prior to the game, Florida raised just its second banner in team history. The event lasted all of 30 seconds, with a little flash of light and smoke billowing from the rafters while The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" played over the arena speakers.
It marked the first time since Oct. 8, 1997 Florida took part in such a ceremony. The Panthers, fresh off a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, opened the year 8-0-4.
Florida captain Ed Jovanovski, a second-year pro during that first ceremony, doesn't think opponents will be caught off-guard going forward.
"We'll take this win," Jovanovski said. "We know it's going to be a grind. You have to start somewhere and it was nice to start tonight."
For one evening, though, the Panthers may have caught everyone by surprise.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
Having already agreed to terms with veteran winger Alex Kovalev, the Florida Panthers announced Friday they had bolstered their defense by resigning a young player.
The team reached a two-year deal with 22-year-old defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who has played his entire NHL career with the Panthers.
Dmitry is a young, talented and hardworking defenseman who continues to develop, general...
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer Alex Kovalev's first NHL appearance came before Jonathan Huberdeau was born. For that matter, it even predates the first game in Florida Panthers' history.
He's a tad experienced, to put it mildly.
At 39, with his name already etched on the Stanley Cup and with 429 goals - and counting - to his credit, there isn...
The Florida Panthers and right-winger Alex Kovalev agreed to a one-year deal, the team announced Friday.
The 18-year NHL veteran turns 40 next month and has scored 428 career goals to go with 596 career assists.
Alex is a veteran player with great skill and vision who we are pleased to have signed, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said in a release. He is a talented forward with...
The Florida Panthers signed right wing Alex Kovalev to a one-year contract on Friday, and he is available for the reigning Southeast Division champions when they open the season against Carolina on Saturday night.
The 39-year-old Kovalev has played in 1,302 NHL games with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Ottawa, with 428 goals and 1,024 points. He was with the Panthers...
Restricted free agent defenseman Dmitry Kulikov has signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers worth $5 million, TSN reported. Kulikov, 22, had four goals and 24 assists in 58 games last season for Florda.
The kids were all right during the first weekend of the NHL season. Rookie forwards made their mark as teams got back to work.Here are some young gunners who could do some real damage this season:Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Florida Panthers: He scored twice in the season opener, setting aside doubts about his ability to function as a 19-year-old in a big boy league. Huberneau toyed with...
The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired forward Jean-Francois Jacques from the Florida Panthers for future considerations, the Lightning announced Monday. Jacques, 27, scored five goals, and two assists and 37 penalty minutes in 24 games this season with the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League. The left winger tied for first on the Rampage with three power play goals. ...
A night that began with excitement and tension ended in disappointment and frustration as the Carolina Hurricanes dropped their first game of the season in a blowout loss to the division rival Florida Panthers. With the schedule being so heavy on divisional play, getting wins or at least strong performances against teams like Florida, Washington, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg is going to...
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers
BankAtlantic Center, 7:30 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, FS-Florida
The long wait is finally over and the much anticipated 2013 season will begin tonight for the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina comes into this season with a new-look offense and greater expectations than they've had in a few years. It's definitely an exciting time to...
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers scored four goals in the first period, including three on the power play, and cruised to a 5-1 victory Saturday night over the Carolina Hurricanes. It was the Panthers' first four-goal period since Dec. 17, 2010, when they blitzed Buffalo in the opening 20 minutes. Saturday's outburst was made extra special since it was the season...
Game time: Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Florida
There's one last order of business to complete before the Florida Panthers can finally get this season started.
It comes Saturday night, not long before the puck drops against the Carolina Hurricanes, and it's a moment 12 years in the making. The Panthers will pay homage to last season one more time, with the hoisting...
Game time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX Sports Florida
The Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators made noteworthy turnarounds last season and enter this campaign looking for more following first-round playoff defeats.
Each team opened this season with a victory but the Senators might have a better chance at another one Monday night, judging by their recent home dominance of the Panthers...
Ward defending against FLA's Jonathan Huberdeau (AP)
– The Carolina Hurricanes are looking to erase an “Opening Day” loss to Florida
in their home opener.
Canes take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena Tuesday night. Puck drops at
7:00pm. This will be the first of five meetings between the Southeast Division
rivals in the 48-game, 2012...