Game 1 Recap: Luostarinen; Huberdeau lead Panthers to 5-2 victory on Opening Night

Eetu Luostarinen didn’t waste much time in scoring his first career goal in his Panthers debut. The 22 year old Finn scored the game winning goal on a 2 on 1 with a snipe past Collin Delia 22 seconds after the Blackhawks tied the game. This goal put the Panthers up 3 to 2 and was one of three third period goals in the Panthers 5-2 victory over Chicago.

The First Period was a very sloppy period as the Panthers struggled to make passes and took a bit to get used to playing with each other. Alex Wennberg had a solid chance at around the 10 minute mark, but was stopped by Delia. Chris Driedger was solid, and showed it by making a save on a Dylan Strome breakaway. Initially it looked like Chicago drew first blood as a Jonathan Huberdeau turnover led to a 2 on 1 rush for Chicago. Pius Suter dished it to Patrick Kane who sniped it past Driedger. Unfortunately for Kane, he was offside and Coach Joel Quenneville used a coaches challenge to challenge the goal for offside. The goal was ruled offside, meaning there was no goal so the goal was taken off the board. The rest of the first passed without much incident.

The Panthers immediately rushed the offensive zone in the 2nd period and wasted no time. Aaron Ekblad fired a shot that was deflected by Blackhawk defender Duncan Keith past Delia as the Panthers took a 1-0 lead only 12 seconds into the second. Initially credited to Carter Verehaege as the puck looked like it had been deflected by him, Verehaege hit the post 30 seconds later nearly making it 2-0. A few minutes later, a Patric Hornqvist forecheck led to a mess in front of the Blackhawks net as Collin Delia was caught outside his net. The puck caromed and was picked up by Keith Yandle who fired it into the empty net for his 100th career goal. It was a nice moment for Yandle who was initially expected to have been scratched, which would’ve ended his 866 game iron man streak, the 4th longest in NHL history. Picking up an assist on the goal was Eetu Luostarinen for his first point as a Panther. The Panthers began to falter but Chris Driedger bailed them out after making an incredible glove save on Kurashev. Alex DeBrincat broke through with a one timer that beat Driedger to make it 2-1.

The Panthers struggled to open the third and Connor Murphy whistled a wrister past an unexpectant Driedger to tie the game at 2 off a faceoff during a 4 on 4. Quickly the Panthers went the other way. On a two on one, Verhaege dished it to Luostarinen who beat Delia low for his first career goal. Patric Hornqvist added to the lead after a point wrister went in off another Blackhawk defender. The Panthers finished Chicago off with the dynamic duo of Huberdeau and Barkov going to work on the powerplay. A scrum in the net saw Barkov slide it cross crease to Huberdeau who buried it for his third point of the night. Huberdeau’s goal was all she wrote as the Panthers skated to a 5-2 win.

The Blackhawks fall to 0-3-0 after this loss and have allowed 5 goals in each game they have played. The Panthers shut down Patrick Kane with the exception of the goal that was waived off and that was crucial for the Panthers. The Panthers meanwhile after having their first two games postponed start the season with a win. The Panthers looked solid out there, it is very clear that this team has a lot of skill, however a lot of that skill is raw and needs time to be developed and fleshed out. There were times where they struggled and that cannot happen when playing teams like Tampa. The team played a fast-tempo game and a boring defensive game. It was a far cry from the absolute shooting galleries they had when Hoffman and Dadonov were on the team, but they kept the puck away from their net for the most part. Chris Driedger had a solid night, other than allowing that second goal. Alex Wennberg had an extremely good game, despite not making the scoresheet. Aleksander Barkov looked like he had returned to form. Barkov was holding onto the puck rather than quickly getting rid of it, a problem he had last year. Barkov managed to beat all five Blackhawks by himself with the puck in the offensive zone on the PK. Jonathan Huberdeau, despite getting three points seemed to struggle. Keith Yandle did not have a good game either. The Blackhawks return on Tuesday night to the BB&T Center. It is unknown who will start in net for either team. Sergei Bobrovsky is supposed to return for Florida, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Coach Q decides to play Driedger. I expect Malcolm Subban to play for Chicago on Tuesday night.

My three stars:

First Star-Eetu Luostarinen

Second Star-Jonathan Huberdeau

Third Star-Patric Hornqvist