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Panthers take big lead early, defeat Flyers in opener

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers set an NHL modern-day record for the fastest four goals to start a season on their way to a 7-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in front of a sellout crowd at BB&T Center on Saturday.

Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen each scored in the game's first 6:46 to give Florida a 4-0 lead.

It was also the fastest four goals to start a game in Panthers history, besting the mark of 9:35 on Oct. 30, 2000, in a 6-5 overtime loss against the New Jersey Devils.

"That was a great start, something I���could get used to,"���Florida goalie Roberto Luongo said. "The boys came out hard, very good chances, in front of a nice crowd. It was a good start, and we didn't stop, we kept pushing."

Jaromir Jagr and Smith each had two goals in their first season opener with the Panthers. Jagr has 724 career goals, seven behind Marcel Dionne for fourth place on the NHL's all-time list.

Jagr, who has 47 goals in 94 career games against the Flyers, is the NHL's all-time scoring leader in openers with 39 points in 22 games.

Luongo made 38 saves.

Trocheck, who opened the scoring at 1:23 with the fastest Panthers goal to start a season, had three assists to set a new career high with four points.

"We've got a powerful offensive team,"���Trochek said. "That's going to be huge moving forward. We've got to focus on defense first this year. That's one of our goals and that's what we've talked about a lot and the offense will come."

Aleksander Barkov and Brandon Pirri each had two assists; Pirri matched his assist total from last season when he had 22 goals in 49 games.

Florida is 4-0-1 in its past five season openers and 7-0-2 overall when opening at home.

Florida recorded its largest margin of victory in a season opener, besting an 8-3 victory against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 6, 2006.

"We got it all tonight,"���Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "Hopefully, we can say that a lot of nights. Everything went our way tonight. We played really well. It's a great home opener for our team."

Defenseman Mark Streit scored for the Flyers, who opened their season with a 3-2 overtime loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

The Flyers (0-1-1)���lost their first three games each of the past three years.

"For me, it's tough to explain because we had a really good game against a really good team in Tampa,"���Streit said. "We had a really good 60 minutes and got a point. Tonight, it was like a completely different team out there. We've got to be ready to compete and skate. They took advantage of it. We didn't skate, too many penalties … if you're down 4-0 after a couple of minutes, it's tough to recover."

Steve Mason started in net for the Flyers but was pulled after giving up four goals on eight shots. He came in with a 7-2-1 record, a 1.48 goals-against-average and a .953 save percentage in 10 career games against the Panthers.

"There's nobody to put this game on but myself,"���Mason said. "I take full responsibility. I put everyone behind the eight ball and am disappointed. Right from the beginning, there was nothing I could be too proud of. I'll put it behind me and have a short memory."

Philadelphia has lost 20 of its past 25 road games dating to last season.

Left wing Connor Brickley, a second-round pick (No. 50) by the Panthers in the 2010 NHL���������Draft, made his NHL���������debut.

The Panthers were one of three teams, along with the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks, playing their first regular-season game Saturday.

The Panthers and Flyers will play again Monday in Philadelphia's home opener.

"I���������think they're going to be ready to play and it's going to be a different game," Gallant said.

Trocheck got things going for the Panthers after Jokinen took a shot on goal from the neutral zone. Trocheck beat Flyers defenseman Evgeny Medvedev to the long rebound before slipping a backhand between Mason's legs.

Bjugstad, who led the Panthers with 24 goals last season despite missing the last 10 games because of a back injury, made it 2-0 at 4:55. He scored on the power play with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle.

Smith, who was acquired in a trade with the Boston Bruins on July 1, scored another power-play goal at 5:46 with a nifty move down low. After taking a pass behind the goal line, Smith quickly moved the puck to the front before slipping it past Mason on the far side.

Jokinen closed out the first-period scoring after Mason misplayed a dump-in by the Panthers. After Trocheck intercepted Mason's pass from behind the net, his quick shot on net hit the post, and Jokinen was right there to tap in the easy rebound.

"It was awesome,"���������Smith said of the fast start. "There was a lot of energy on the bench. It's nice having the sellout crowd, and they were going to pretty crazy for us. You couldn't have asked for a better start to the year."

Jagr scored 33 seconds into the second period when he took a centering pass from Barkov and fired a quick wrist shot past backup goalie Michal Neuvirth, who made 19 saves on 22 shots.

Jagr scored again in the first minute of the third period to make it 6-1 when he put home a rebound after Neuvirth stopped a Brian Campbell wrist shot.

"It couldn't have gone better,"���������Smith said. "A���������big win for us. We were creating a lot of chances. Our power play was pretty hot too. It's good to have that success early. The main thing right now is to move on."

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