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Huberdeau stars for Panthers in win over Flyers

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia rapidly is becoming a can't-miss destination for Jonathan Huberdeau.

Florida's rookie forward scored twice and had a pair of assists as the Panthers snapped a five-game winless skid by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 on Thursday night.

Huberdeau's big night came two weeks after after the 19-year-old scored the game-deciding goal in the shootout in Florida's previous visit to Philadelphia.

"I can't even fathom that," Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen said. "I was a 20-year-old freshman in college trying to make it in college. As a 19-year-old, to be this good this early in the NHL, it's … I can't even relate to that. And there's only a select few people who can. He's going to be a good one for many years."

Clemmensen was good in his own right Thursday, stopping 32 of 34 shots for his first win of the season. Teammate Peter Mueller added a pair of goals, and Mike Weaver and Drew Shore each had a pair of assists.

Luke Schenn and Jakub Voracek scored for the Flyers, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov allowed four goals on 15 shots before being pulled midway through the second period.

The Panthers jumped on the Flyers with a pair of goals 29 seconds apart midway through the first -- and then Huberdeau, the third pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, doubled the Florida lead.

He poked the puck away from Schenn at the Florida blue line and flew out of the zone. The puck went to Mueller, who hit Huberdeau for a breakaway that was stopped when Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen bear-hugged the rookie. Referees awarded a penalty shot, which allowed him to showcase his offensive creativity.

Huberdeau skated in on Bryzgalov, slowed down in the slot with the puck on his backhand, and when Bryzgalov reached to try to poke the puck away from him, Huberdeau pulled the puck around the goaltender's stick and slid it between his pads for his seventh goal of the season at 10:15. It was the Panthers' first penalty-shot goal since Oct. 30, 2010.

"I protect the puck and they gave me the opportunity to have a [penalty shot]," Huberdeau said. "I took it and I'm glad I scored a goal for the team."

It was a sensational play Clemmensen said he's thankful he only has to see in practice.

"We work on shootouts in practice and he's tough," Clemmensen said. "I know how to expect some of those dazzling kind of moves."

It also was the kind of start the Panthers were hoping to get against a Philadelphia team that had played an emotional, physical game just a night earlier in Pittsburgh.

"They were coming off such a wild and emotional game [Wednesday], it's pretty simple," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "I didn't even have to say it. The players were talking about how the start is going to be really important. … We felt that if we can come in here and get a good start, and fortunately we had some success."

Timonen admitted his team was tired after the 6-5 win against the Penguins, which marked the end of a six-game road trip.

"I usually don't make up excuses," he said, "but you saw a tired Flyers team today. Coming back from a six-game road trip, played a really hard-charged game [Wednesday], got two points, got home at 2 o'clock [a.m.]. We were tired today."

The Panthers made it 4-0 on Huberdeau's power-play goal at 11:46 of the second. Erik Gudbranson's stick broke on a shot from the point, but the puck rolled right to Shore. He attempted to tip it to Huberdeau, but the Flyers' Braydon Coburn intercepted it. However, Coburn couldn't clear it, and Shore got another chance. This time he found Huberdeau, who was able to tuck the puck under Bryzgalov.

The big night was more impressive when you realize Huberdeau wasn't sure he'd be able to play after being hit in the knee by a puck in practice Wednesday.

"I had a bruise on the outside of my knee," Huberdeau said. "It's part of hockey. I wanted to play tonight so I just put some ice on it and I was ready."

For Dineen, that combination of resiliency and skill is the next step in Huberdeau's development.

"It was a good snapshot of why [GM] Dale [Tallon] and our management staff have talked highly of him," Dineen said. "It's good from the first four, five, six games of the year. He's heading in the right direction. He's playing well, he's playing hard, he's playing the right way."

The Flyers pushed back in the third, with Schenn's second goal of the season coming at 13:49, when his point shot went through traffic and past Clemmensen.

Mueller's second of the game made it 5-1. Huberdeau started the play with a nice pass to a cutting Shore for a shot from the low slot that replacement goaltender Brian Boucher stopped, but Mueller was there to knock in the rebound at 14:33 for his sixth of the season.

One minute later, Eric Gustafsson's shot went wide of the net but right to where Voracek was stationed. He stepped in front and backhanded the puck between Clemmensen's pads at 15:35.

But it was too late for the Flyers, who again started slowly, allowing the game's first goal for the 10th time in 19 games.

"I wish I could give you an answer to that," defenseman Nicklas Grossmann said. "It has been something we have been talking about. It's something we want to get better at. Today we weren't ready from the get-go and that cost us the game. It is something we have to address and it is not acceptable."

Things started poorly almost from the opening whistle, with Dmitry Kulikov nearly scoring on the game's first shift when his shot from the right point 22 seconds into the game hit the post and bounced off the back Bryzgalov's leg. But he was able to reach back and keep the puck from crossing the goal line.

Florida wouldn't be held off the scoreboard long, though, as Mueller and Kopecky scored in rapid succession.

Weaver held a puck in at the Flyers' blue line and dumped it deep to Huberdeau in the left corner. He spotted Mueller open in the slot, and the Panthers' forward snapped a wrist shot past Bryzgalov at 8:15.

On the next shift, Weaver jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone and spotted a streaking Kopecky, whose wrist shot from the inside edge of the right circle beat Bryzgalov over his blocker at 8:44.

While the win feels nice, the Panthers don't have much time to celebrate -- they play in Pittsburgh on Friday.

"Hopefully this game will be a [stepping] stone for us," Mueller said. "We can get right back at it [Friday], so there's not much to really enjoy but get ready for Pittsburgh."


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