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game recap

Shane Harper leads Panthers past Avalanche

Rookie forward scores first two NHL goals in win

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Nine days after making his NHL debut at the age of 27, Florida Panthers forward Shane Harper scored his first NHL goal Saturday. For good measure, he scored again in a 5-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 at BB&T Center.

"There's time when you think like (you'll never score an NHL goal), for sure, but I've been pretty confident in myself that it would come," Harper said. "I always thought I just needed to get my shot. But yeah, sometimes there is doubt over the years, but you just have to have confidence in yourself."

Jonathan Marchessault and Vincent Trocheck each had a goal and an assist, and Aaron Ekblad scored for the Panthers (3-1-1). Roberto Luongo made 26 saves in his 439th career victory, eight behind Terry Sawchuk for fifth place on the NHL's all-time list.

Blake Comeau and Matt Duchene scored for the Avalanche (3-2-0). Semyon Varlamov made 33 saves.

Harper, who spent the past seven years in the minor leagues before making his NHL debut Oct. 13, broke a 1-1 tie at 17:02 of the second period when he redirected a pass from Greg McKegg on a 2-on-1.

Video: COL@FLA: Harper nets one-timer for his second goal

After Marchessault scored on a breakaway to make it 3-1 at 4:30 of the third period, Harper scored 41 seconds later when he one-timed Alex Petrovic's pass on another 2-on-1.

"He found the back of the net twice and that was real good," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "The kid played hard, he works hard and going hard to the net and you get rewarded. You need scoring through your lineup and you definitely had that."

Harper's goal was one of three for Florida during a span of 2:26 in the third period. His night ended when he had a fight with Colorado defenseman Patrick Wiercioch with 2:22 remaining.

Colorado opened the scoring at 7:38 of the first period when Comeau scored the first power-play goal against the Panthers this season after eight successful kills. Florida had been the only team in the NHL that hadn't allowed a power-play goal.

Video: COL@FLA: Comeau deflects Barrie's shot for PPG

After Ekblad tied the score 1-1 at 1:32 of the second period with a power-play goal, Harper then took over.

"I think you guys all know how tight of a group we have," Trocheck said, "so to see him, 27 years old, finally get his first NHL goal and pop two in the same game, it's definitely exciting to see that."

 
Goal of the game

After a faceoff in the Florida zone, McKegg zipped in from behind and lifted Duchene's stick to get the puck, then skated past defenseman Nikita Zadorov at the blue line to create a 2-on-1 with Harper. McKegg put a saucer pass right on Harper's stick in the crease for a redirection.

Video: COL@FLA: Harper taps in first career NHL goal

 
Save of the game

Varlamov made three saves in one rapid sequence in the final minute of the first period when he saved a shot from Denis Malgin from the slot, a pad save on Jared McCann from close range and Ekblad's rebound from the wing.

 

Unsung moment of the game

Jaromir Jagr stood to the left of Varlamov when he fed Ekblad with a perfect saucer pass that the defenseman one-timed from a sharp angle. Ekblad's shot quickly bounced off after hitting the post inside the net and he pointed at the net and banged his stick. "Honestly, I didn't know whether it was or wasn't a goal because I didn't really see it myself," Ekblad said, "but I was kind of just pointing like, please stop, let it be a goal. Please."

Video: COL@FLA: Ekblad goes top shelf on a pass from Jagr

 
Highlight of the game

Marchessault scored after he anticipated a pass to Comeau in the slot and tipped it forward. He outraced the Colorado defensemen after gaining control before beating Varlamov with a shot between the legs.

Video: COL@FLA: Marchessault scores five-hole on breakaway

 
They said it

"We played real well. I thought tonight we played a great 60 minutes. There was no letdown, really. We played a real solid hockey game and that's what makes you most proud as a coach -- when your team plays for 60 minutes like that." -- Panthers coach Gerard Gallant

 

"I think he should just stick to the goal scoring." -- Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck on Shane Harper's fight late in the third period after Harper scored his first two NHL goals

 

"A little bit of a roller coaster for us, I think. I like the way the game started, the first period, but we weren't able to sustain it. We didn't manage the puck well in the second. We may have a few lazy habits that came back to bite us. They're a fast team, they play fast. I liked the first period, we couldn't keep it going for the full 60." -- Avalanche coach Jared Bednar

 

Video: COL@FLA: Trocheck pokes puck in to pad lead

 
Need to know

Duchene had his second consecutive multipoint game with a goal and an assist. … Colorado defenseman Eric Gelinas played 13:19 in his first game of the season in place of injured Fedor Tyutin. … Marchessault leads the Panthers with seven points in five games. … The Panthers had a goal disallowed in the first period after a coach's challenge. Defenseman Jason Demers beat Varlamov with a slap shot from the point, but the goal was overturned after it was determined that Trocheck was offside when the Panthers gained the zone. … Already missing forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers were without forward Jussi Jokinen because of a lower-body injury.

 
What's next

Avalanche: Home against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday (9 p.m. ET; ATL, TSN3, NHL.TV).

Panthers: At the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ROOT, FS-F, NHL.TV).

 

Video: Harper's first two goals lead Panthers to 5-2 win

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