Keith Yandle got his 100th career goal, Chris Driedger made 23 saves and the Florida Panthers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Sunday night.
Eetu Luostarinen scored his first NHL goal, and Aaron Ekblad, Patric Hornqvist, and Jonathan Huberdeau also scored for Florida, which had three goals in the third period to pull away in its delayed opener. The Panthers were to have played Dallas last week twice, games that were called off because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Stars.
Alex DeBrincat and Connor Murphy scored for the Blackhawks. Collin Delia stopped 24 shots.
As late as last Friday, it seemed as if Yandle was going to be scratched from this game and break his string of playing in 866 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak in the NHL. Instead, Yandle scored the goal and extended his streak to 867.
“Getting a win is the biggest thing but my 100th goal, it took a long time to get it and I’m happy,” Yandle said. “For me it was just being ready to go and scoring that goal solidified that work.”
Yandle, whose status on Florida’s active roster was a hot topic during camp, scored in the second period. His goal made it 2-0, and he celebrated wildly afterward — a bit of an uncharacteristic reaction for the veteran defenseman.
“Anytime I score I’m pretty excited and that was a special one,” Yandle said. “Anytime you get to put on a, you know, NHL jersey and be able to represent your team it’s a special thing.”
The move paid off for the Yandle and the Panthers.
“We have an understanding that everyone wants to play and play in certain situations,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yans gives us one of the best power plays in the league, and he’s been a significant piece on it.”
The Blackhawks have given up 15 goals in three games.
“I think around our net is a big part of it. I don’t think, right now, we have the right intensity that we need, and that includes all of us on defense,” Chicago's Connor Murphy said.
The Blackhawks are 0-3-0, the first time they have not managed even one point in the season’s first three games since 1997-98. This is only the 10th time it has happened in the franchise’s 94 seasons.
“We know we have to be better, we’ve got to get a win. We didn’t give ourselves enough of a chance,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “No one likes losing but you show who you are by responding.”
Yandle’s streak of games played is the fourth-longest in NHL history. He trails Doug Jarvis (964 games from 1975 through 1987), Garry Unger (914 games from 1968 through 1979) and Steve Larmer (884 games from 1982 through 1993) on the all-time list. Yandle has not missed a game since March 22, 2009, when he was with the Arizona Coyotes.
Patrick Kane’s assist on Chicago’s first goal was his 634th career regular-season assist. That tied Neal Broten for eighth place on the NHL’s all-time list among U.S.-born players.
Of the 22 players on the opening night roster, only 10 played a game with Florida in 2019-20.
The Panthers were 29th in the 31-team league in attendance last season but are the early leaders this season. They drew 4.147 for the opener; that’s more than the 2,329 that the Arizona Coyotes averaged in their first two home games. The Panthers and Coyotes are the only teams so far to have fans. Dallas, which is scheduled to open Friday, is also planning to have fans.
The Panthers currently allow up to 25% capacity at games.
The teams finish their two-game set on Tuesday.