SUNRISE, Fla. — Brian Campbell scored two power-play goals and Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and two assists in his NHL debut as the Florida Panthers opened defense of their Southeast Division title with a 5-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes before a sellout crowd of 19,688 at the BB&T Center on Saturday night.
Veteran Alex Kovalev, who was signed after attending Panthers camp on a tryout basis, also had a goal and two assists. Scottie Upshall had the other first-period power-play goal for the Panthers, who jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.
Jose Theodore made 41 saves for Florida. Patrick Dwyer scored for the Hurricanes, who are looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
Cam Ward started in net for Carolina, but was pulled after the first period after allowing four goals on 12 shots.
The Hurricanes, who lost five of six against Florida last season, don’t play again until Tuesday night when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning. Carolina had the better of play over the last two periods, but by then the damage had been done. It didn't help that the Hurricanes finished 0-for-6 on the power play.
The Panthers were opening at home for the first time since the 2006-07 season, when they had another memorable performance. That night, they beat the Boston Bruins 8-3.
After a pregame ceremony that included the unveiling of a banner commemorating the first division title in Panthers history, Huberdeau scored Florida’s first goal of the season at 3:51.
Huberdeau, the third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, was standing in front of the net when he tapped in Peter Mueller’s perfect feed from behind the net.
Campbell made it 2-0 at 6:42 after Carolina’s Jiri Tlusty tried to move the puck past him at the blue line instead of simply clearing the zone. After stealing the puck, Campbell skated and beat Ward with a slap shot high to the glove side.
Campbell’s second goal at 16:47 came with eight seconds remaining in a 5-on-3 advantage. Like the first, Campbell scored on a slap shot, but this one went high to the stick side.
It was the second two-goal game of Campbell's career. The defenseman also had two goals on Nov. 17, 2005 against Washington when he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Upshall closed out the first-period scoring after a nifty play by Huberdeau. After taking a pass from Tomas Fleischmann just inside the Carolina blue line, Huberdeau deked past Tlusty before passing to the wing to Upshall, who one-timed it past Ward.
Huberdeau also got the first assist on Kovalev’s goal, which gave Florida a 5-0 lead 3:35 into the second period. Kovalev, back in the NHL after playing 22 games in the KHL last season, scored when he ricocheted a backhand from behind the net off the back of backup goalie Dan Ellis.