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Published February 04, 2017
The Florida Panthers are happy to have two of their top players back.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored in his first game of the season and Aleksander Barkov had an assist on that goal to lift the Panthers over the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 on Friday night.
Huberdeau's goal during 4-on-4 play with 4:58 left in the second period broke a 1-all tie. Barkov, who missed the previous 15 games with a back injury, passed from the left circle across to Huberdeau in the slot and he shot the puck high into the net.
"I had a lot of fun out there," Huberdeau said. "I felt a little tired there at the end, but for the first game I'm pretty happy with myself and the team."
Huberdeau had been out all season following surgery to repair an Achilles tendon injury sustained Oct. 8 in the final preseason game against New Jersey. It was his first goal since April 9 last year.
"When you miss like four months of playing, your first goal, it's always special, and that's what it was tonight," Huberdeau said.
Huberdeau had a career-high 20 goals and 59 points last season.
Reilly Smith also scored for the Panthers.
Barkov was leading the team with 27 points (nine goals) in 36 games when he injured his back early in a 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto on Dec. 28.
"Right from the start we felt pretty excited," Barkov said. "I didn't feel my legs at all, I was just so excited, and I think Huby was the same way. We went out there, had some fun and we were lucky to score a goal."
The Panthers won their third straight game and are finally feeling close to full strength.
"They're unbelievable," Florida interim coach Tom Rowe said. "For the first game, we kept watching their fatigue level on the bench. They were unbelievable for the amount of time, especially Huby, has been out."
James Reimer stopped 22 shots to earn his 100th career win.
"I thought it was one of the best games as a team we've played all season," said Reimer, who became a father on Tuesday. "Busy. It's been a lot of fun. A happy time for our family, and the win tonight is the cherry on top."
Hampus Lindholm scored for Anaheim, and John Gibson made 35 saves.
"He has been real solid, you can't deny that," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "In a game like tonight, we wasted a strong performance from our goaltender. When you only score one goal, you can't give up any. We gave up two."
Lindholm gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead during 4-on-4 play when his shot from the point got past Reimer at 9:39 of the first.
The Panthers tied it 13 seconds later after Jason Demers passed to Smith in front and the puck bounced off his skate and into the net.
The Ducks killed off a 5-on-3 power play for 1:55 midway through the second period as Gibson stopped five shots.
"We survived that and that's usually a good sign that you're going to have something go your way," Carlyle said. "Our goalie made some big stops."
NOTES: The Ducks opened a six-game road trip that ends Feb. 14 at Minnesota. ... Ducks D Sami Vatanen left in the third period with a lower-body injury. "He got squeezed along the boards. I don't have anything now other than lower body," Carlyle said. ... D Shea Theodore was recalled from AHL San Diego. ... Panthers forward Paul Thompson has been assigned to AHL Springfield.
Ducks: Visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
Panthers: Host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.