Dallas, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Marcel Goc scored the winner with 4:55 to go and added an empty-netter as the Florida Panthers opened their season with a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Scott Gomez and Aleksander Barkov each posted a goal for the Panthers, who finished in last place in the Southeast Division last season.
Tim Thomas stopped 25 shots in his debut with Florida. The two-time Vezina winner and one-time Conn Smythe winner had taken a leave of absence from the league last year.
"That was a big difference for us," said Florida head coach Kevin Dineen about Thomas. "He was a guy that stood up and made the saves when he needed to and that's what we're going to need."
Brenden Dillon had a goal and an assist while Alex Chiasson also scored for the Stars, who missed the playoffs for a fifth straight season last year. Kari Lehtonen allowed three goals on 38 shots.
"I expect to see a lot more battle," said Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff, who was making his debut with the team after spending 16 years in Buffalo. "We went by too many battles tonight. We didn't stop on pucks. And I really feel we built our preseason over most of that, and we took some of those plays for granted tonight."
Trailing by a goal, the Panthers tied the game at 10:32 when Barkov, the second overall pick of this year's draft, was able to sweep the puck home from in front with several bodies in the crease.
The Panthers then took a 3-2 lead with 4:55 left in the game as Tomas Fleischmann grabbed the puck in the zone and flew down the left wing. Just as he was about to go behind the net, Fleischmann centered it for Goc, who tapped the puck into the open net.
Dallas got Lehtonen out with under two minutes to play, but Goc sealed the win with the empty-netter and 1:30 left to play.
Gomez got the first goal of the game as he tapped the puck in from in front after Scottie Upshall worked the puck out front from the right corner at 17:41 of the first.
The Stars got the only goal of the second period to tie the game as a left circle faceoff win allowed the team to control the puck and Chiasson eventually wrapped it in from the right side at 7:25.
At 7:32 of the third, the Stars took the lead while shorthanded as an initial rush was stopped, but Vernon Fiddler got the puck behind the net and centered it where Dillon tapped it in.
Florida has won four of the last five games against Dallas ... Florida went 0- for-4 on the power play while Dallas was 0-for-3 ... Dallas hosts Washington on Saturday ... Florida plays in St. Louis on Saturday.