SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers continued their winning ways on Friday night, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 at Amerant Bank Arena.
The Panthers have won three-straight games as they improve to 8-4-1 on the season.
Here’s tonight’s takeaways.
Uvis Balinskis scores his first NHL goal
27-year-old Uvis Balinskis thought his chance to play in the NHL wouldn’t come at this stage in his career. After leaving Europe this offseason to sign with the Panthers this offseason, Balinskis officially made his NHL debut in October.
“This is my only chance,” Balinskis said when reflecting on his journey to the NHL today.
The Latvian defenseman started the first 10 games of the season before being healthy scratched in the past two games.
Back in the lineup tonight, Balinskis would hit a major career milestone — scoring his first NHL goal.
With 1:07 left in the first period, Matthew Tkachuk fed Balinskis backdoor, putting the Panthers up 2-1 just before the first intermission.
“Everybody was happy for me,” Balinskis said about his teammates reaction to the goal. “Everybody was telling me I got to score one and it finally happened.”
Balinskis said post game that his phone was full of messages after scoring his first goal.
Florida’s first-line keeps producing
The Panthers’ top-line of Sam Reinhart, Aleksander Barkov and Evan Rodrigues have been great together this season.
One game removed from the trio each picking up two points in Washington, they were back on the scoresheet Friday night.
7:08 into the second period, Barkov would widen the Panthers lead to two with his fifth goal of the season. Reinhart and Rodrigues would pick up the assists.
“It’s easy with those two guys, they’re really smart players,” Barkov said about Reinhart and Rodrigues. “They don’t have any weaknesses in their games… I’m really lucky to play with them right now.”
Barkov and Reinhart would also pick up assists on Kevin Stenlund’s empty net goal.
Reinhart leads the Panthers in scoring with 17 points in 13 games, while Barkov is second on the team with 14. Rodrigues isn’t too far off himself with 11 points.
Matthew Tkachuk has another big game against Carolina
Besides Sergei Bobrovsky, nobody was a bigger thorn in Carolina’s side than Matthew Tkachuk was last postseason. In last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, Tkachuk had 5 points in four games against the Hurricanes — including three game-winning goals.
In their first matchup since that playoff series, Tkachuk didn’t miss a beat, picking up two points (goal, assist), en route to the Panthers 5-2 win.
“He does accelerate in these games,” Paul Maurice said. “He doesn’t care about points, he just wants to win hockey games. But it’s good that he gets a positive result.”
After Carolina’s Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored just 1:20 into the game, Tkachuk would answer back less than two minutes later — tying things up at 1-1. He would also pick up the primary assist on Balinskis’ go-ahead 2-1 goal later in the period.
Tkachuk is at a point-per-game through 13 this season, and is third overall on the team in scoring.
Florida’s next game is at home Sunday, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. against the Chicago Blackhawks.