The Florida Panthers wanted to avoid a letdown.
They returned to the BB&T Center on Saturday for the first time since a four-game, seven-day road trip through western Canada and Colorado — a trip in which they picked up five out of eight points via wins over the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche, a shootout loss to the Calgary Flames and a regulation loss against the Vancouver Canucks.
And even though they were facing the struggling Detroit Red Wings — losers in nine of their past 10 — Florida had no plans to take their first game home for granted.
“Let’s make sure that we’re ready to play the right way and have respect for what’s going to be coming,” coach Joel Quenneville said at morning skate.
The response: A 4-0 win, the Panthers’ six win in their past nine games and the 10th of their last 11 in which they’ve picked up points.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored the final two goals and added an assist. The top-line winger now has nine goals on the season and six in the past six games. He leads the Panthers with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists)
Brett Connolly and Aleksander Barkov opened scoring with first-period goals. The Panthers (7-3-4) outshot the Red Wings (4-10-1) 42-22.
Sergei Bobrovsky, hoping to rebound from a poor October, stopped all 22 shots that came his way for his first shutout of the season. Bobrovsky, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner who signed a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Panthers this offseason, is 5-0-3 in his last eight starts.
The Panthers have shown at times this year just how good they can be.
Their 6-2 win over Edmonton on Sunday — the second game of last week’s four-game road trip — epitomized what the Panthers can be at their best.
The goal is to play with that moxie on a regular basis.
Saturday served as the latest example.
“We’re a confident group,” Connolly said. “We know we’re getting better. We know there’s obviously a lot to improve on, but it’s good. We’re playing meaningful hockey right from Game 1, and that’s what we want.”
This and that
▪ Defenseman Anton Stralman recorded his 200th career assist in the second period with the secondary assist on Huberdeau’s goal.
▪ Mark Pysyk started his fourth game of the year as a forward with both Vincent Trocheck (lower body) and Jayce Hawryluk (upper body) out with injuries.
▪ The Panthers are a perfect 5-0-0 when leading after two periods.
The Panthers host the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Washington entered Saturday with an NHL-high 23 points.