Florida Panthers

Panthers pounce on Flyers and open their season with 7-1 victory

Florida Panthers right wing Reilly Smith (18) scores a goal against Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (15) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla.
Florida Panthers right wing Reilly Smith (18) scores a goal against Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (15) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. AP

The Panthers couldn’t have asked for a more perfect season opener.

A full house greeted the team as the players were introduced Saturday, and the Panthers responded with four goals in the first seven minutes en route to a rollicking 7-1 victory over Philadelphia in front of an announced crowd of 19,135 at BB&T Center.

“That was pretty special, the start everyone is looking for in every game,” said Jaromir Jagr, whose two goals came after the most of the carnage was complete.

“We got the good bounces for sure.”

Said goalie Roberto Luongo: “The boys came out hard, buried their chances in front of a nice crowd. It was a good start and we didn’t stop. We kept pushing.”

Florida, the NHL’s most improved team last year, built on its late-season momentum by stunning the Flyers with two goals before the five-minute mark, then scoring twice in a minute for a 4-0 lead.

The Panthers did all this in 6:46, which, according to Elias, set a modern NHL record for fastest four goals to start a season.

It also was the quickest four goals scored in Florida’s franchise history.

Florida’s seven goals were the second-most in a season opener.

The Panthers opened the 2006-07 season (following Luongo’s controversial trade to Vancouver) by beating the Bruins 8-3.

“That crowd was great; to hear how loud they were was a change of pace and we feed off that,” said Vincent Trocheck, who scored Florida’s first goal of 2015-16 just 1:23 into the opener and ended with a career-high four points.

“You can’t ask for a better start than that. You could see the excitement in everyone. The anticipation was great.”

The Panthers chased starting goalie Steve Mason after their four-goal barrage was completed on eight shots.

Up 1-0, Nick Bjugstad slid into the left circle and lit up an Aaron Ekblad shot at 4:55 of the first.

Newcomer Reilly Smith got his first of two power-play goals down low, and Jussi Jokinen scored a minute later.

“At the end of the day, this was just one game and we have 81 more,” said Smith, who got his second power-play goal in the third for Florida’s final tally of the night.

“We can definitely build on it, but there were mistakes we need to clean up. [The start] was awesome; there was a lot of energy on the bench.”

The Panthers weren’t just quick to score in the first period, they also were in the second and third, as Jagr got his first goal :33 into the second and his second :41 into the third to make it 6-1.

The Panthers face these same Flyers on Monday in Philadelphia.

“We obviously came out of the gate real good,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We were fresh, and the big crowd helped us. This was a great home opener for our team.”

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