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Panthers 5, Hurricanes 1

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers scored four goals in the first period, including three on the power play, and cruised to a 5-1 victory Saturday night over the Carolina Hurricanes.

It was the Panthers' first four-goal period since Dec. 17, 2010, when they blitzed Buffalo in the opening 20 minutes.

Saturday's outburst was made extra special since it was the season-opener.

On a night when the Panthers raised their first-ever 2012 Southeast Division championship banner, the team got contributions from a wide variety of sources. The heroes ranged from a teenager to someone more than twice his age.

It started with just 3:37 elapsed as center Jonathan Huberdeau, who was making his NHL debut, announced his arrival. The 19-year-old rookie, who was the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, parked in front of the net, received a pass from Peter Mueller and one-timed it for a goal he won't soon forget.

New Panthers winger Alex Kovalev, 39, who signed a one-year deal on Friday, got the secondary assist, one of two he recorded in the period. Kovalev, by the way, is the last remaining active player from the 1994 New York Rangers team that won the Stanley Cup.

The next three goals came on the power play. Defenseman Brian Campbell made it 2-0 when he stole a clearing attempt and scored unassisted. His slapshot beat Cam Ward glove side with 6:42 gone.

Ten minutes later, Campbell scored again, assisted by Kovalev and Stephen Weiss. Campbell had four goals and a team-high and career-high 49 assists last season, and he's off to a flying start in 2013.

Winger Scottie Upshall capped the period with the Panthers' fourth goal of the night.

If the fans were upset at the team because of the long lockout, those feelings never showed. There was a sellout crowd of 19,688 in the house, and the constant barrage of goals by the home team kept Panthers rooters happy.

The Hurricanes pulled Ward after the first period, replacing him with Dan Ellis, a veteran backup who made his Carolina debut.

The teams played to a stand-off in the second period. Kovalev made it 5-0 with a goal that was assisted by Huberdeau and defenseman Filip Kuba.

The Hurricanes finally got on the board when Patrick Dwyer scored with 9:15 elapsed. Joni Pitkanen and Justin Faulk got the assists.

Jose Theodore got the win in the nets for Florida.

But it was a disappointing start for Carolina, considered the favorites in the division after adding Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin in the offseason. Staal was united with his brother Eric in the Hurricanes' lineup.

NOTES: Right winger Alexander Semin made his Hurricanes debut, starting on the first line with center Eric Staal and Zach Boychuk on the left side. ... The Panthers took five out of six games from the Hurricanes last season. ... Defenseman Ed Jovanovski, 36, was named the Panthers' captain on Friday. The team's first-round pick in 1994, Jovanovski was traded to Vancouver in January of 1999 and returned to Florida in 2011. He becomes the Panthers' seventh captain in team history and their first since Brian McCabe was traded in 2011. Brian Campbell and Stephen Weiss will serve as assistant captains. ... The Panthers were without first-line winger Kris Versteeg and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who spent the lockout playing in Russia and just signed a two-year contract on Friday. Also out: defensemen Mike Weaver and Erik Gudbranson and forwards Sean Bergenheim and Marcel Goc. ... For the Hurricanes, defenseman Jamie McBain, center Jeremy Welsh and wingers Tuomo Ruutu and Kevin Westgarth were out.

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