The Florida Panthers made the most of their opportunities. Radim Vrbata recorded his seventh career hat trick to lift the Panthers to an 8-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.
Eight goals are a season high for the Panthers, and it came on a season-low 22 shots. Thirteen players recorded points for the Panthers.
“We didn’t have too many shots on net, but the ones we had we made them count and had some lucky bounces, too,” Vrbata said.
Evegenii Dadanov scored two goals and Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov each had a goal and two assists for the Panthers while Owen Tippett, the youngest player in the NHL at 18, scored his first career goal. James Reimer made 31 saves.
“Barkov was a beast again tonight, and Vrbata obviously came up big and great to see the kid (Tippett) get his first, too,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “There was a lot of great things that happened out there.”
Kalle Kossila scored his first NHL goal for Anaheim and Andrew Cogliano and Logan Shaw also scored. John Gibson allowed six goals on 17 shots in two periods. Gibson was replaced by Reto Berra to start the third period. Berra stopped three shots.
Vrbata’s third goal came off a rebound and gave the Panthers a 7-2 lead at 8:39 of the third. Vrbata’s seven hat tricks are with five different teams. The last one was Dec. 7, 2015 for the Vancouver Canucks against the Buffalo Sabres.
“You always want to start the season on a good note and score early and get it out of the way,” Vrbata said. “Then you have a game like this where everything you touch seems to go in so I will take it.”
Dadanov’s second goal made the score 8-3 with 2:41 left.
The Panthers scored six goals on their first 15 shots.
Leading 3-1, the Panthers went ahead 4-1 when Trocheck grabbed a bouncing puck and pushed it past Gibson at 4:03 of the second.
Dadanov’s goal at 8:27 of the second gave the Panthers a 5-1 lead. Barkov’s shorthanded goal with 4:23 left in the second made it 6-1.
Cogliano and Shaw each scored in the third period for the Ducks.
“We just didn’t have anything going tonight,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, who wanted to quickly move on to the next game. “You just flush it, but it’s hard to flush. Coaches don’t flush that easily.”
Trailing 2-0, Kossila made the score 2-1 when he took a pass from behind the net by Logan Shaw in front of the crease and put the puck between the pads of Reimer at 6:24 of the first.
Vrbata’s second goal came on the power play and stretched the Panthers’ lead to 3-1 with 2:36 left in the first.
Tippett’s goal put the Panthers ahead 2-0. Jamie McGinn passed from the left circle across to Tippett in front and he poked in the puck at 4:23 of the first.
“Obviously it’s a pretty special feeling with my first NHL goal,” Tippett said. “I knew if I focused on my game and did the little things right that my chances would come and I’d be able to bury them.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on Vrbata’s first goal 1:04 in. Vrbata grabbed his own rebound and slid the puck past Gibson from in front.
Notes: Tippett is 43 days younger than New Jersey Devils rookie forward Nico Hischier, who is also 18. Panthers LW Connor Brickley had to be helped off the ice after a collision with Anaheim C Derek Grant. Brickley is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, according to Boughner. Ducks rookie D Jaycob Megna was born in nearby Plantation, Florida and had a host of relatives at the game. “That wasn’t the result we wanted,” Megna said.
Ducks: At Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday Panthers: Host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday