The Florida Panthers bested the Dallas Stars in a 4-2 victory Thursday night in Dallas. The first game of the season belonged almost entirely to the newly minted Panthers. Scott Gomez opened the scoring with his first goal in a Panthers uniform, a feat he claimed he hadn’t yet accomplished in his NHL career. The Stars’ Alex Chiasson scored the lone goal in the second period, tying the game at 1-1. After Dallas went ahead by a short handed Brenden Dillon goal in the third period, Alexander Barkov evened things up again by scoring his own first goal, not only as a Panther, but in the NHL. Florida reclaimed the lead a few minutes later with a goal by Marcel Goc. Goc then sealed the deal by way of an empty net goal with 1:29 left on the clock.
Perhaps the most anticipated aspect of the game was the return of Tim Thomas to NHL hockey. Thomas did not play like a goalie who had taken a year and a half off, but sparkled in his Panther debut. While he only made 25 saves (compared to Lehtonen’s 35), many of them were spectacular and kept up the Panthers’ morale. Thomas stated that his absence from the sport was owed to the fact that he just needed a break, and after taking it he feels energized. It remains to be seen whether or not Thomas will return to his Vezina glory, but what seems evident at the moment is that the Panthers have a solid option in net.
Midway through period one, due to a few extra pokes from Antoine Roussel on Thomas while he covered the puck, fighting broke out and multiple penalties and misconducts were administered. Mike Weaver and Antoine Roussel duked it out while Ryan Garbutt and Dmitry Kulikov exchanged not-so-pleasantries. The only one of the bunch to avoid a 10 minute misconduct was Weaver. After all was said and done, Florida was awarded a 2 minute power play for Roussel’s instigation. Power plays, however, proved ineffective on both sides of the ice as Dallas went 0/3 and Florida 0/4, including giving up a short handed tally.
Florida plays their next game on Saturday, October 5 in St. Louis.