While they didn’t get the results they wanted Friday evening in Carolina, the Panthers arrived in South Florida early Saturday morning with several positives to draw from and the anticipation of playing their first home game of the season this evening at BankAtlantic Center.
The Panthers unveiled an exciting brand of hockey Friday featuring an aggressive style of play at both ends of the ice. Despite the 6-4 loss, the Panthers arrived home optimistic about the season.
“It’s exciting for the fans,” said Nathan Horton, who scored Friday along with Cory Stillman, David Booth and Radek Dvorak. “Always pressure the puck. I thought everyone played hard tonight.
“If we give that effort every night, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
And tonight’s home opener against Atlanta would be the perfect time to win their first game of the season. “We’re excited about getting our first win in front of the fans,” Horton added. “It’s always exciting playing in front of your home fans.”
The Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening 6:07 on goals from Booth and Stillman. The Hurricanes scored the next three goals before the Panthers tied the game on Dvorak’s goal before the Hurricanes scored the next two to take the lead for good.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun called Friday’s contest a “tough game.”
“There were a lot of bad breaks,” he added. “I think we played well enough o win, but I didn’t make enough saves to win. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my best night.”
Defenseman Nick Boynton, playing his first regular season game with the Panthers, said the game “could have gone either way.”
“We had enough chances to win,” he added. “The mistakes we made cost us.”
But what the Panthers should have left Carolina with Friday was the knowledge of what’s possible under DeBoer’s aggressive forecheck. They had plenty of good scoring chances, including a few by Rostislav Olesz, and also showed off an improved power play with Stillman and Bryan McCabe (until he injured his back) on the point.
“We’re going to draw on the positives,” DeBoer said. “I thought our guys played right to the buzzer. We had some bad breaks around our net. It was nice to get some offense. We out shot them, out chanced them…like I said, we did a lot of good things. We held them to four shots in the first period. Maybe we deserved a better fate.”
And a chance to show themselves off tonight to a packed house at BankAtlantic Center.
“It’s the first game and we’ve got 81 to go,” Booth said. “We’ll take the positives and go from there.”
NOTES Radek Dvorak needs to play in four more games for 900 in his career…The Panthers were 5-2-0-1 against the Thrashers last season…The Panthers will donate $500 to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital they score this season…