SUNRISE, Fla. – For the Florida Panthers, history. For the Carolina Hurricanes, history denied.
The Panthers matched the best 11-game start in NHL history and kept the Hurricanes from what would have been a league record-tying start of their own, with Anthony Duclair getting two goals and two assists in a 5-2 victory on Saturday night.
“I don't think it's a statement game," Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said. “There are none in November. They don't really present trophies in November."
They do put entries in history books, however.
Spencer Knight made 28 saves for Florida (10-0-1), which tied the 1994-95 Pittsburgh Penguins and 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres as the only NHL teams to reach 21 points after 11 games. Carolina (9-1-0) was bidding to join the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs and those ’06-07 Sabres as the lone teams to start a season with 10 consecutive wins.
It was the first game in NHL history pitting two teams with season-opening point streaks of at least nine games. Duclair got Florida on the board 2:28 into the contest and the Panthers led the rest of the way.
“Tonight was a good test," Duclair said. “Obviously, the whole league's watching. It was a really big game."
The Hurricanes hadn’t trailed by more than two goals in any of their first nine games, but were down 4-0 in the first period against Florida and couldn’t pull off a comeback.
Vincent Trocheck had a goal and an assist for Carolina, and Jesper Fast also scored for the Hurricanes.
“I mean, 9-1's a great start," Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. “It's definitely a good start and gets us going in the right direction."
Frank Vatrano, Anton Lundell and Patric Hornqvist also had goals for Florida, which got two assists from Carter Verhaeghe and Brandon Montour.
Duclair clinched it with an empty-netter with 58.5 seconds left.
“Special teams was the difference tonight," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. “We were terrible on those, and they were good. End of story.”
The Panthers played without captain Aleksander Barkov, the team’s best player, who was a surprise scratch with a lower body injury. They also improved to 3-0-1 in four games under Brunette, who took over a week and a half ago following the resignation of Joel Quenneville as part of the fallout from how the Chicago Blackhawks ignored a player’s claims of sexual assault by a video coach in 2010.
Duclair had three of his points in the first period, sparking Florida’s 4-0 game-opening burst.
Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen was pulled after the first period, having given up those four goals on 14 shots. But he returned midway through the second when Antti Raanta had to leave the game following a collision with Florida’s Ryan Lomberg. Raanta came way out of his crease and into the faceoff circle to his left to pursue a loose puck, as Lomberg bore down on him giving chase from the other direction. They collided, Raanta sustained what the Hurricanes suspect is a concussion and Lomberg was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.
Trocheck scored to make it 4-2 with 2:02 left in the major, but the Panthers fended the rest of it off.
“I can't speak for everyone, but me personally, I don't even look at standings or anything," Knight said. “Can't win the Cup in October or November. Today we'll enjoy this one, but we've got a game in two days."
Florida will have to win at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Monday to match the best 12-game start in NHL history. The 1994-95 Penguins and 2006-07 Sabres were both at 23 points through 12 games.
The Panthers have an NHL-best 100 points in regular-season games played in 2021 (the calendar year, not the season), two more than Carolina. This is the first time Florida has ever reached 100 points in a year — and 24 games remain before the calendar flips to 2022.
NOTES: Florida was 3 for 35 on the power play against Carolina last season, then went 3 for 4 with the man advantage in the first period alone on Saturday. ... Carolina was bidding to be the 50th team from the U.S. major sports leagues — the NHL, NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball — to start 10-0. ... The Hurricanes have given up the first goal in six of their 10 games. ... Duclair’s three-point (1-2-3) first period matched his most for any period, done on two other occasions.
Hurricanes: Visit Tampa Bay on Tuesday, their first meeting since the Lightning beat the Hurricanes in five games in last season’s playoffs.
Panthers: Visit the Rangers on Monday to start a four-game trip that will also take them to New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
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