Connor Brickley scored the first two goals of his short NHL career on Tuesday night.
Only one counted, but it sure was a big one.
Brickley’s goal in the third period snapped a 1-1 tie and lifted the Panthers to a 4-1 victory over the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
“This is the ultimate high. It’s pretty surreal,” said Brickley, who had a goal scored in the second period waved off. “I thought I had two there but something happened.”
Florida, off to a 2-1-0 start, grabbed the initial lead 2:01 into the game when Nick Bjugstad scored off a Brian Campbell feed.
The score stayed that way until midway through the second when Carolina tied it at 1. Elias Lindholm’s goal with 7:54 left in the second came not long after what should have been Brickley’s first NHL goal was taken away because of an early whistle.
The referee ,who blew the whistle signifying a Carolina penalty (too many players on the ice), apologized to coach Gerard Gallant for doing so too early and nullifying the goal. An early whistle is not eligible for video replay.
Neither Gallant nor Brickley made much of a stink about the incident afterward.
“I was counting their players so I didn’t see it,” Gallant said. “But [the ref] came over and said he blew the whistle too soon, he made a mistake. That’s fair; when a guy comes over and says that, you can live with it. We make plenty of mistakes ourselves.”
Said Brickley: “It’s a little frustrating but you have to shake it off and keep playing. I made a move and just as I was about to shoot the puck I heard a whistle so I thought something happened. I didn’t really know.”
What would officially become Brickley’s first NHL goal came later in the game.
With the scored tied at 1, Dmitry Kulikov’s shot off Eddie Lack bounced back into the slot and Brickley got a piece of the puck and shot it as he was falling to the ice.
Brickley’s goal gave Florida a 2-1 lead with 7:42 remaining. Less than a minute later, Jaromir Jagr drove up the right side and fired a shot that Lack initially made the save on. Aleksander Barkov pounced on the loose puck, however, and his first goal of the season gave Florida a 3-1 lead and the game.
“It wasn’t a nice goal, but it’s a goal,” Barkov said. “I went to the net because I saw Jagr had a nice shot on it. It went through and I went after it. We had a lot of scoring chances but got just the one. We’re saving up for the next one I guess.”
Florida ended its three-goal third period when former Carolina winger Jussi Jokinen picked up his second goal of the season and made it 4-1 with 1:47 left on an empty-netter.
The win was the first of the season for backup goalie Al Montoya who made 22 saves.
Lack, Roberto Luongo’s pal from Vancouver, made 26 stops in the loss.
“The team came out and played a good game,” Montoya said. “They made some shots, I made some saves. It was a good all-around game.”
▪ Shawn Thornton was scratched after playing the first two games of the season against Philadelphia with Quinton Howden making his season debut.
▪ Defensemen Steven Kampfer and Dylan Olsen are the only Florida roster players not to appear in a game yet.