"Scoring early helped," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "Scoring late in the period and getting that lead put us in a good spot. The early second might have been the only part of the game where we were just OK. I thought after that we got back to doing the right things. Offensive zone time and possession in that area was a strong point tonight. A lot of lines were doing it."
Brett Connolly opened the scoring for the Panthers tonight, beating Jonathan Bernier with a top-shelf wrist shot just as Florida's power play expired to make it 1-0 at 3:05 of the first period. A bit later, captain Aleksander Barkov scored to extend the lead to 2-0 at 16:54 of the opening frame.
Hoping to get off to a hot start in their first game back home after a four-game road trip through the Western Conference, the Panthers succeeded in doing just that against Detroit. Entering the first intermission, they held impressive advantages in scoring chances (12-4) and shots (15-7).
The Red Wings (4-10-1) arrived in Sunrise on the heels of a 7-2 loss in Carolina on Friday.
"We knew they played last night, and we knew we were coming back from that road swing, which isn't easy," Connolly said of the importance of winning the first period. "We had a really good start, which set the tone for the rest of the game. We just kind of had it for the rest of it. That was a good win. That was first one we felt like we were in control from the start."
In the second period, Jonathan Huberdeau lit the lamp for the second straight game, firing off a wrist shot that bounced off Trevor Daley's skate and into the net to push the lead to 3-0 at 6:45.
Then, in the third period, Huberdeau's second goal of the night made it 4-0 at 10:46.
"We played a pretty complete game," Huberdeau said. "That's what we wanted to do. We haven't done that in a while. That's how we've got to play -- playing a lot in their zone, a lot of shots. It makes it easy. And obviously Bob in the net was really good tonight with the shutout."
In net, Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 saves to pick up his first shutout as a Panther. At the other end of the ice, Bernier stopped 37 of the 41 shots he faced.
"It was definitely a fun game to play," Bobrovsky said. "I thought our guys did a great job offensively with smart puck management. Defensively, they did the smart things. It was fun to be a part of."
The Panthers (7-3-4) have now won six of their last nine games to move into third place in the Atlantic Division. Dating back to Oct. 11, they've picked up points in nine of their last 10 games.
"Just to have the game in control for the whole night, that's a positive," Connolly said. "We've had to obviously grind for points this year, a lot of overtimes and stuff like that. We're getting there. We're 14 games in now. I think guys are starting to get the systems; it's starting to become second habit. Guys are really working on that and taking pride in that. It's coming."
Here are five takeaways from Saturday's win in Sunrise…
1. BIG ONE FROM BRETT
The second time was the charm for Connolly on this goal.
After coming close to finding twine just a few seconds earlier, the 27-year-old winger capitalized on his next attempt from the same spot, scoring on a top-shelf wrist shot from the left circle just after the power play had expired to give the Panthers an early 1-0 lead at 3:03 of the first period.
Video: DET@FLA: Connolly rings puck in off the post for goal
"The first [attempt] was a good play by Malgy [Denis Malgin], and on the second one he made the same play," Connolly said of the goal. "I just tried to really bear down on the second one. It was good to see that one go in. It was obviously good for our team to score first."
One of a handful of new Panthers off to hot starts this season, Connolly, who joined the team on a four-year deal this summer, continues to contribute regularly on offense. Through the first 14 games with his new club, the 2018 Stanley Cup champion has tallied five goals and five assists.
"We just kind of kept going," Connolly said. "Huby had a big night again. Like I said, Bob played well. Everybody played solid defensively. Our defense played well. It's good to get a win."
2. SASHA SCORES
After waiting 12 games for his first goal, Barkov has now scored in each of his last two outings.
With the Panthers on the power play late in the first period, the 23-year-old dug his skates into the ice near the top of the blue paint before whacking in a rebound after a long wrist shot from Huberdeau to double the lead up to 2-0 with 3:06 remaining on the clock in the opening frame.
Video: DET@FLA: Barkov cleans up in front on the power play
"We knew that they played yesterday and had to travel to come here," Barkov said. "We wanted to spend as much time as possible in their zone. I think that's what we did. Of course, we played really well in the defensive zone and didn't give them much. When we did, we had Bob in net."
Piling up the assists throughout the first month of the season, Barkov is now starting to find the back of the net as well. With two goals over his last two games - both of them coming with the man advantage - and an assist tonight, he's pushed his point total to 17 in 14 games thus far.
Barkov's 15 assists currently rank third in the NHL, just two behind Connor McDavid for first.
3. MORE HUBER-GOALS
Huberdeau's carrying a very hot stick right now.
After lighting the lamp twice in Colorado on Wednesday, the 26-year-old winger was terrorizing the opposing goaltender again tonight, beating Bernier with a shot that bounced off a defender's skate and into the net to extend Florida's lead to a dominating 3-0 at 6:45 of the second period.
Video: DET@FLA: Huberdeau fires in a wrister to extend lead
"He's enjoying it," Quenneville said. "[That line] had some great looks around the net that didn't come up on the scoresheet. They made some great plays off the rush, in the zone with patience and play recognition. His linemates contributed as well… A lot of good things with that line."
In the third period, Huberdeau capped off his second two-goal performance in as many games.
Sneaking down to the left side of Detroit's net, he dropped his stick to the ice and re-directed a pass from Keith Yandle past Bernier to put the Panthers ahead 4-0 with 9:14 left in regulation.
"Obviously we've got good players," Huberdeau said of the passing sequence that set up his goal. "Yands, that was a nice pass. I just had to deflect it on the net. It was a huge win for us at home, now we've got some days to rest a little bit and right back at it next Thursday."
Video: DET@FLA: Yandle sets up Huberdeau's second goal
With two goals and an assist tonight, Huberdeau now ranks first on the team in both goals (9) and points (19). After setting a franchise record with 31 multi-point games last season, he also leads the team in that category as well, registering multiple points in six of 14 games thus far.
"He's amazing," Barkov said of Huberdeau. "We know as a line we can play a lot better, play a lot better with the puck and create more chances in the offense zone. But, still, scoring four goals in two games is pretty good. I know he wants that hat trick."
Huberdeau led the team with eight shots on goal against the Red Wings, with his final shot late in the third period that would have given him his first career hat trick catching a piece of Bernier.
"Obviously I want my first hat trick at some point," Huberdeau said. "I think [FOX Sports Florida's color commentator Randy Moller] was saying, like, 18 games with two goals. That's too many. Hopefully it's going to come, but I'm just happy that we got the win."
4. STRALMAN'S MILESTONE
Huberdeau's first goal also had some history behind it.
With the secondary assist on the play, Anton Stralman picked up the 200th helper of his NHL career, becoming just the 19th Swedish-born defenseman to reach that mark. Signing a three-year deal with the Panthers this summer, he's notched five assists in 14 games this season.
"That story is for the grandchildren right there," Stralman said about his historic point. "I kind of read the faceoff play they were running. They had one of the fast guys running out of the zone, so I cut down the middle. When I looked up, Huby was alone in front and it went in somehow."
In the midst of his 13th NHL season, the 33-year-old has skated over 20 minutes in seven of the last eight games. Against Detroit, he also recorded two shots and one hit over 20:26 of ice time.
"If the effort's there, usually you have a good night," Stralman said of the win.
5. BOBROVSKY BLANKS 'EM
Bobrovsky made every save that he needed to tonight.
Facing just 22 shots on goal, the 31-year-old veteran turned aside every puck that came his way to pick up his first shutout since joining the Panthers on a seven-year contract this past summer.
Of his saves, four came from high-danger areas, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Video: DET@FLA: Bobrovsky earns first shutout with Panthers
"I know there were some key moments in the first [period] where he was solid," Quenneville said. "I thought we did a real good job as the game progressed of keeping it clean around him. I thought he found pucks and moved well. He had one of those nights where he took advantage of what's there and did what he had to do."
Bobrovsky has now helped Florida come away with at least one point in each of his last eight starts, posting a 5-0-3 record in that span, including victories in each of his last three outings.
"We're very happy for him," Barkov said. "He's been unreal for us this season. He finally gets the shutout, and a lot of confidence from that. We're a confident group right now. We're going to keep working hard and keep playing hard."