SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)Carter Verhaeghe scored twice, Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Mahura each had third-period goals and the Florida Panthers held on to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 on Wednesday night.
Balcers’ goal, his first with Florida after signing in the offseason, put the Panthers on top for good. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 31 shots for the Panthers, who have won three of four to open the season.
”We were pretty good tonight,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. ”You need your goalie to make at least one good save in the third with a lead, maybe two. He did that.”
Travis Konency, James van Riemsdyk and Nick Seeler scored for Philadelphia. Kevin Hayes had two assists for the Flyers.
Florida appeared to be in control of its home opener early with Verhaeghe providing a 2-0 lead with a pair of first-period goals 2:22 apart.
”Hopefully. I will keep this trend going,” said Verhaeghe, who scored twice in Florida’s home-opening win over the Penguins last season.
But as Philadelphia had done in each of its first three games under coach John Tortorella, it rallied. The goal by van Riemsdyk tied it at 2, and it stayed that way until Balcers beat Philadelphia goalie Felix Sandstrom early in the third.
Sandstrom made 31 saves for the Flyers.
”I thought we were slow coming out. I thought as the game went on, we played better, found a way to crawl back into it,” Tortorella said. ”To give up the third goal and just a simple 2-on-2, that’s the one that hurts. I thought Sandy gave us a chance. But to give up a 2-on-2, that’s a free one, even-strength strange situation. That’s the one that hurts to me.”
Mahura, a defenseman claimed by the Panthers off waivers last week from Anaheim, gave Florida a little breathing room midway through the final period with a wrist shot from the left circle to make it 4-2. Konecny scored in the final moments.
”Obviously, it is exciting to get the win here in the home opener,” said Mahura, whose goal was the winner. ”I did exactly what I wanted to do. It’s exciting for our team. . We had a lot of energy out there and I thought we played a pretty good 60-minute game.”
The short-handed Panthers were playing their first game without star defenseman Aaron Ekblad who was placed on the NHL’s long-term injured reserve on Wednesday. The Panthers were also missing top defenseman Brandon Montour, who has not played in the past two games.
NOTES: The Panthers were the final Eastern Conference team to make their home debut this season. There are three teams in the Western Conference – Vancouver, Chicago and Arizona – yet to play a home game. … Philadelphia was trying for a four-game win streak to open the season. The Flyers’ most recent four-game winning streak was Jan. 26-31, 2021. The last time the Flyers started 4-0-0 was 1995-96.
Florida’s new banners from last season – for the Presidents’ Trophy and the Atlantic Division title – were already hanging in the arena when the game started. ”You’ve got to be proud of that, obviously, but of course there’s one banner that we all want to see and we’re working really hard toward that,” Florida captain Aleksander Barkov said.
Flyers: At Nashville on Saturday night.
Panthers: Host Tampa Bay on Friday night.
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