Panthers open season with rout of Hurricanes
Sunrise, FL – Brian Campbell scored twice as Florida began defense of its Southeast Division title with a 5-1 thrashing of Carolina on Saturday.
Jonathan Huberdeau, the third overall pick of the 2011 draft, and Alex Kovalev each posted a goal and two assists for the Panthers, who won the division for the first time in team history last season before falling to the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs.
"At the beginning, I was just trying to be less nervous," Huberdeau admitted. "I think when I scored my goal it made me relax a little bit and play my game."
Jose Theodore stopped all but one of the 42 shots he faced.
Patrick Dwyer scored the lone goal for the Hurricanes, who placed 12th in the Eastern Conference last season with 82 points.
Cam Ward had a rough start to the season as he didn't even last the first period, giving up four goals on 12 shots in less than 15 minutes of play. Dan Ellis played the rest of the game and gave up just one goal on 13 shots.
"There's been a lot of time off and there's going to be some rust," Ellis admitted. "It's going to take a little time to fine-tune things."
Florida got on the board just 3:37 into the game when Peter Mueller centered the puck from behind the right side of the net and Huberdeau was there to tap it in for his first NHL goal.
Just over three minutes later, the Panthers struck again as Campbell picked off a bad clear at the right point and skated to the slot before blasting the puck top shelf for a power-play goal.
It was Campbell again on the power play at the 16:47 mark when he smacked a shot from the left side that beat Ward to the near post, and just 40 seconds later Scottie Upshall made it a 4-0 game with a wrister from the right circle.
Florida made it a 5-0 game 3:35 into the middle stanza thanks to Kovalev's stuffer from the left side for his first goal as a Panther.
Carolina got on the board at the 9:15 mark of the second period during a delayed penalty call as Joni Pitkanen sent a hard pass from the left circle to the crease, where Dwyer was there for the easy redirect.
Theodore was busy in the third period, facing 13 shots, but he stopped all of them to help the Panthers take the opener.
Carolina hosts Tampa Bay on Tuesday ... Florida next plays on Monday in Ottawa ... The Panthers took five of the six games against the Panthers last season ... Florida went 3-for-6 on the power play, while Carolina was 0-for-6.