Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/4/13
In a night of comebacks and firsts Panthers recently signed goalie Tim Thomas and their top draft pick Aleksander Barkov lived up to their hype. In his first game that mattered in 17 months Thomas was spectacular in turning aside 25 shots while 18-year-old Barkov the second overall pick of the 2013 draft scored his first NHL goal in his first game to it at 9:28 of the third. But it was Marcel Goc’s game-winner off a sweet centering feed from Tomas Fleischmann with 4:55 left and then his empty-netter with 1:29 remaining that provided the happy ending to a 4-2 victory in front of 16110 disappointing fans at American Airlines Center Thursday night. “Our young players coming through making a difference our veteran guys stepping up when they needed to a guy like Mike Weaver probably star of the game for us blocked shots got goaded into a situation he didn’t want to but he took care of his business. “Our penalty kill was really strong tonight. It was a mixture of things but a hard-fought win that was no gimmee there that was great stuff. “We’re tired of talking you know what actions are what really make a difference and tonight actions spoke.’’ Without Thomas who had played just 1 1/2 preseason games since his last start on April 25 2012 – a Game 7 conference quarterfinal loss to the Capitals – or defenseman Erik Gudbranson’s game-saving block on Brendan Dillon’s point-blank blast the locker room certainly wouldn’t have been as jolly. “My hands hurt when I saw that shot’’ Dineen said. “That’s a sign of what we’re trying to establish here you’re playing for the team and there’s not better example than that one. It got [Gudbranson] in the midsection and that’s a long way from his heart so he’ll be all right.’’ The Panthers who lost twice to the undefeated Stars (5-0-2) in preseason improved to 10-7-1-2 in season openers and 6-12-2 on the road while Dallas didn’t earn a point in a home season opener for the first time since 1999 (11-1-3). The Panthers coming off a disastrous season kicked off a franchise-record long season-opening four-game road trip in excellent fashion and next fly to St. Louis to take on the Blues Saturday night. It was a matchup of two rebuilt teams although the Panthers remodeling job didn’t come until the final week of the preseason when new owner Vincent Viola’s cash helped bring five veterans to Florida including Thomas. Viola was on hand to enjoy his first win as an owner.
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