Shane Harper waited his whole life to score an NHL goal.
He only had to wait a few minutes to get his second.
Harper, the Florida Panthers’ 27-year-old rookie, helped fuel Florida’s 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at BB&T Center on Saturday night.
After the game, Harper held his special puck out for all to see. This is one puck that isn’t going to be misplaced any time soon.
“It was quite a game,” Harper said. “That first one felt so good. I had a couple of chances in the first and second so to get it ... relieved some pressure.”
Late in the second period of a 1-1 game, Harper and Greg McKegg got loose on a rush with Harper pushing through his first NHL marker. Early in the third, he got his second — this one giving Florida a 4-1 lead. Harper even got into his first NHL fight with 2:22 left.
“It was nice to get that out of the way, too, I guess,” Harper said.
Harper is the first Florida player with a multi-goal game this season as the Panthers’ five goals was most so far this season.
It took a while for Florida’s offense to get cooking Saturday with the Avs grabbing a 1-0 lead. For the second time in as many nights, the Panthers had a goal taken off the board only this time, it was the right call.
Down 1-0 in the first, Jason Demers' long shot beat Semyon Varlamov with Kyle Rau blocking only the Avs challenged and video showed Vincent Trocheck offside.
Florida bounced back in the second, tying the score early on after Aaron Ekblad literally slid into a Jaromir Jagr power play pass and beat Varlamov 90 seconds in.
Later, McKegg boosted the puck away from Colorado's Matt Duchene and got off to the races, feeding Harper on the breakaway.
“It was nice, we had been buzzing in the zone,” McKegg said.
Harper made his NHL debut with the Panthers on opening night five games ago.
Florida continued its offensive assault in the third with Jonathan Marchessault making it 3-1 at 4:30 of the period; Harper got his second 51 seconds later.
Duchene scored moments after Harper, yet Trocheck’s third goal of the year put the Avs away.
The Panthers embark on their first real road trip of the season — all five games so far have been inside the Sunshine State — Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Florida will visit the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, Toronto, Buffalo and Detroit before returning to Sunrise.
“It was a good game,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “[Harper] found the back of the net twice for us and that was great. The kid works hard, he went hard to the net and was rewarded. It was good to see.”