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Panthers Wrap-Up: Panthers 4, Stars 2

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

1 2 3 OT T
Panthers 1 0 3 0 4
Stars 0 1 1 0 2
FLA - S. Gomez (1), A. Barkov (1), M. Goc (1), EN - M. Goc (2)
DAL - A. Chiasson (1) SHG - B. Dilon (1)

DALLAS, TX —  (AP) - The Florida Panthers' newcomers spoiled the Dallas Stars' new era.

Tim Thomas stopped 25 shots and top draft pick Aleksander Barkov scored in his NHL debut as the Panthers beat the Stars 4-2 at American Airlines Center in the opener for both teams.

"That was a huge goal for us. The character these guys are showing is awesome. This was a very important game for us to win. Guys made the sacrifices."

- Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas on Aleksander Barkov's first NHL goal, tying the game at two in the third period.
1. Thomas Strong: Signed to a contract a week ago and tabbed the starting netminder for opening night, Tim Thomas looked strong throughout his first action in 15 months. After taking a year off from hockey, Thomas finished with 25 saves on the night, seeing nine, 10 and eight shots in each of the periods. Thomas created a lot of one and done chances and the two goals that the Stars scored were no fault of his own. On Dallas' first goal, tying the game at one, Alex Chiasson collected a weird bounce off the end boards and scored on a wraparound, scoring 7:25 into the seocnd period. Then with Florida on the power play, Dallas found themselves on a shorthanded rush thanks to a Panthers pinch in the offensive zone. Thomas made the first two saves but Brendon Dillon followed up on the third chance to score 7:32 into the third. . 

2. A Perfect Road Game: It was an entire team effort on Thursday night. The defense and Thomas played fantastically in their own zone, limiting the Stars to 27 shots on net and the offense attacked in waves on Kari Lehtonen in finishing with 38 shots. Off-season addition Scott Gomez got the scoring started late in the first period as he crashed the net and beat Lehtonen top shelf with 2:19 to play. Florida, playing what was a perfectly drawn up road game held that lead until midway through the second but with four lines buzzing the Stars net, it was only time before things started shifting their way.

3. A Comeback Victory: Dallas had the lead thanks to the shorthanded tally but Florida kept attacking and crashing the net and were rewarded. In fact the offense was rewarded with three goals in an eight minute span and with Thomas and the defense the way they were playing, it was enough. First it was the Panthers first overall pick (No. 2 overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft Aleksander Barkov netting the first goal of his NHL career. Off a scramble in front of the net, Barkov eventually scored to tie the game at two with 9:28 to play. Then Tomas Fleischmann fed a trailing Marcel Goc on the rush to net the eventual game winner and stun the home crowd with 4:55 to play. Goc put the game away with 1:30 to play, scoring in the empty net from inside center ice to give the Cats a huge road victory to open their 20th Anniversary season.
Memorable twitter posts from the game.

@j_markstrom: Great road win tonight for the @FlaPanthers And congrats to @Barkovsasha95 on his first NHL goal, many more to come! #youngestever #buzzin

@ThatsMrHaley: Great start to #hockey season. Way to play @FlaPanthers!

@WPack911: Great win for my @FlaPanthers to start the season 4-2 over Stars! New Owner, New Players, New Season let's keep it up! #FlaPanthers #GoCats!

@MarcTeschic: #Panthers starting the season off right. A big win in big D. #NHL @FlaPanthers

@ben_krzywicki: Very impressed by the @FlaPanthers . #gopanthers

Memorable fan posts from the game.

Tuula Falenius: Nice first NHL game and goal Sasha!

Sue-Ann Koretsky: Awesome start to the season! Awesome win!!

Braden Keefer: Gudbranson needs some love for those two goals he saved at once.

Jeffrey Hernandez: GO CATS GO!!! The defense is a major improvement, Thomas hasn't missed a beat and the vets and the rookies add that much needed depth we sought in the past

Christina Ganz: Congrats boys! Great start! So happy to see Barkov score in his NHL debut! Red Rising!

1. For the second straight season, the Panthers saw a highly touted rookie score their first goal in their first NHL game. While eventual Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau scored on his first shot on his first shift last season against Carolina, it took Aleksander Barkov a little bit longer but his first NHL goal was a big one as well as his tally tied the game at two midway through the third period. Barkov finished with the goal on four shots and was a plus-1 in 15:34 of ice time.

3. Trailing 2-1 midway through the third period, the Panthers struck for three unanswered goals to earn their first victory of the season. The goals came within an eight minute span. 

The Panthers threw a lot of shots on the Stars and Kari Lehtonen. They outshot the Stars by 12, outshooting them 39-27. Leading the way was Tomas Fleischmann (six) and Kris Versteeg (five).

Defenseman Mike Weaver was all over the place in the defensive zone, coming to the aid of Tim Thomas after Thomas got hit by a Stars player as he picked up his third career NHL fight (first since 2009-10 season) and led the way for Florida in the hit department (5) and block department (6). His blocked shot total in fact were almost equal to the Stars total as a team (10). 

Florida's players had a tough night in the face-off dot with the exception of center Marcel Goc. Besides leading the way offensively with two goals, including the game winner, Goc won 80% of his draws, winning 16 of 20 face-offs on the night. No other Panther won more than five face-offs.

Tim Thomas
He took 15 months off from the game but it didn't look that way as Thomas was brilliant in his return to the crease in stopping 25 shots for the victory.

27 Shots, 25 Saves, .926 SV%
Florida continues their four-game road trip to start the season with a second straight meeting against a Western Conference team. The Panthers will face-off against St Louis Saturday night (8:00pm). Having made the playoffs as a top four team in the Western Conference the last two seasons, the Blues opened up their 2013-14 season with a 4-2 victory over Nashville Thursday night, scoring three times in the first 10 minutes of the game to help in the win. The Blues captain, David Backes along with Alex Steen led the way with a goal and an assist each.

Author: Glenn Odebralski |

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