SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The goal for Florida Panthers head coach Bob Boughner was to bring a fast-paced, north-south brand of hockey to his new team.
While the sample size is small, it seems they’re off to a good start.
An announced crowd of 16,871 packed the BB&T Center for Saturday’s home opener and they were not disappointed.
Fans were treated to an exciting, back-and-forth contest that saw the Panthers come from behind to take down cross-state rival Tampa Bay 5-4.
While attendance numbers aren’t likely to remain that large moving forward, at least not at first, Boughner certainly could appreciate the energy that the fans brought to the building.
“The place was jammed, it was over 16000 people,” he said. “They saw a little bit of everything. There were some highlight goals. It was a physical game.”
Florida stumbled out of the gate, falling behind 2-0 on a pair of quick goals by the Lightning, but quickly found their footing and began to tilt the ice back in their favor.
“It was a little bit of a relief,” Boughner said. “It wasn’t looking good through the first few minutes.”
The Panthers peppered Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy with 48 shots and were constantly inside the Lightning zone.
Maintaining aggression and keeping the puck in the Lightning defensive zone most of the game kept the fans loud and involved.
“I’ve been preaching since day one; we talked about our identity and we want to make this place a tough place to play,” Boughner said. “We want it to be tough for teams to come down here. The intention is there to put pucks at the net.”
It seems the message is getting through.
Through two games the Panthers have scored eight goals and generated 84 shots.
The games have been exciting and competitive.
If not for some shaky goaltending, Florida could easily be 2-0-0 to start the season.
Boughner knows it’s not all about offense though, commending the Panthers effort down the stretch on Saturday to hold the lead.
“What appealed to me was at the end of the game,” he explained. “[Tampa Bay] pulled their goalie and to see guys dropping down and putting their bodies in front of pucks and sacrificing, it was a great character win and it showed me a lot about the guys in general.”
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE
The Panthers are back in action on Thursday night when they host the undefeated St. Louis Blues (4-0-0).
Sniper Vladimir Tarasenko leads the Blues with three goals while Jaden Schwartz’s seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) and plus-6 rating pace the team.
Defensemen Alex Pieterangelo has been chipping in offensively, racking up 2 goals and 4 assists.
Expect Boughner to roll out the same lineup that the Panthers have used in each of their two games, meaning Denis Malgin, rookie Owen Tippett and defensemen MacKenzie Weegar will be the scratches.
Roberto Luongo will start in goal for Florida, making his first home appearance of the season.
The veteran netminder started the Panthers season opener in Tampa, allowing 4 goals on 24 shots in the regulation loss.