Heponiemi Lifts Florida Panthers to Win Over Detroit Red Wings in Debut

Heponiemi, a 22-year-old forward from Finland, was drafted No. 40 overall by Florida in 2017

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Aleksi Heponiemi made the most of his NHL debut, scoring with 2:15 left in overtime to lift the Florida Panthers to a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

“He’s going to be telling his great grandkids about that one," said teammate Keith Yandle, who had a tying goal with 1 second left in the first period.

Heponiemi, a 22-year-old forward from Finland, was drafted No. 40 overall by Florida in 2017. The organization wasn't sure whether he would play for its AHL team or be a regular on the taxi squad this season.

“He’s going to find a way to get to this league," coach Joel Quenneville said.

Heponiemi scored from the left side of the net after Anthony Duclair lifted the puck over an opponent's stick and across the crease to set up the winner.

“He’s got great instincts," Quenneville said. “He’s a threat. Great hands, great finish, great touch.”

Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 saves, including one with his left skate late in the third period to stop Mathias Brome’s backhander.

“He makes tough saves look really easy," Yandle said.

Aleksander Barkov scored the Panthers' first of two goals on power plays 3:06 into the opening period, putting them ahead 1-0.

Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi had goals 1:57 apart late in the first to give Detroit a 2-1 lead that didn't last long.

The Panthers were coming off a shootout loss after opening their postponed-filled season with three straight wins.

Thomas Greiss stopped 23 shots for the Red Wings, extending his winless start with the team. They returned home after a winless, four-game road trip after splitting their season-opening, four-game homestand.

Detroit coach Jeff Blashill took captain Dylan Larkin off the power play early in the game.

“He tried to switch something up and I just watched from the bench," Larkin said. “That’s definitely a good lesson for me."

Blashill said it was time to make some changes.

“I’m not sure how we can find out if guys are better if we don’t try them," he said. “It isn’t about names. It is about getting guys who will execute."


Bertuzzi, who has a team-high five goals, was unable to finish the game because of an upper-body injury after being on the ice for nearly 16 minutes. Due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, Detroit was without five players: Adam Erne, Robby Fabbri, Sam Gagner, Jon Merrill and Filip Zadina.

The Panthers put defenseman Gustav Forsling on injured reserve. Florida, which had two series canceled because of COVID-19 issues with the other teams, did not have anyone on the list the league provides on a daily basis.


Barkov tied Scott Mellanby for No. 2 on the team's career list with 157 goals. He scored on a power play for the 44th time in his career, pulling into a tie with Pavel Bure for fourth on the franchise's all-time list.


Former goaltender Jimmy Howard announced his retirement recently, writing in an Instagram post that he's looking forward to coaching his son's hockey team after a 14-year career with the Red Wings. The two-time All-Star won 246 games and was on the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 2014.


The same two teams will meet in Detroit on Sunday, roughly about 17 hours after leaving Little Caesars Arena.


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