A new coach and a new version of overtime hockey couldn’t keep the Philadelphia Flyers from a familiar result in their season opener. A meeting with a goaltender who has recently owned them might not help.
Philadelphia hopes the positives of a game featuring the NHL’s first 3-on-3 extra session outweighs the negatives as it looks to spoil the season opener for Roberto Luongo and the host Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
In Dave Hakstol’s NHL coaching debut, the Flyers dropped their eighth straight game that went past regulation and 12th in their last 13 with a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday. Philadelphia finished with an NHL-high 18 overtime or shootout losses last season while missing the playoffs with 84 points.
Matt Read and Brayden Schenn scored for the Flyers, but captain Claude Giroux missed on a penalty shot in the first period and Scott Laughton was denied by Ben Bishop on one in overtime.
Still, Hakstol saw enough to be happy about his team’s opener.
"I like the way our team played," said Hakstol, who coached the previous 11 seasons at the University of North Dakota. "That’s, I guess, what my focus is. I’m excited to see everybody go out and work hard to play their role and do their job and do it with confidence."
Things might get a bit tougher against Luongo, though. The 15-year veteran is 3-1-0 in his last four games against Philadelphia, including three with Florida last season. Luongo holds a 1.96 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in those four games, compared to 3.30 and .912 in his previous 15 appearances against the Flyers.
The Panthers were 1-9-0 when Luongo allowed four or more goals last season, compared to 27-10-12 at three or less. His 2.35 GAA for the season was his best since 2010-11.
While Luongo will turn 37 this season, Jaromir Jagr is still going strong for the Panthers at 43. Jagr nearly helped Florida to the playoffs last season after coming over via a trade from New Jersey in February.
Playing on a line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, Jagr scored six goals and added 12 assists in 20 games. Florida finished with 91 points but missed the playoffs for the third straight year.
Jagr enters with 722 goals, nine behind Marcel Dionne for fourth-most all-time and 19 behind Brett Hull for third. He’s also 48 points behind Gordie Howe’s 1,850 for No. 3 on the all-time list and 50 games shy of becoming the 10th player in league history with 1,600.
Jagr has seven goals and seven assists in his last 11 games against Philadelphia dating back to 2008. He has 45 goals and 71 assists in 93 games against the Flyers in his career.
"Jagr is one of the greatest athletes of all-time," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said.
Florida did not have anyone among the league’s top 45 goal scorers last season. Nick Bjugstad scored a team-high 24 and Brandon Pirri had 22 but only two assists. That duo as well as Huberdeau, who led the team with 45 points, and Barkov are all under 25 years old.
They’ll try to solve Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason, whose 1.48 GAA in 10 games against Florida is his second-best against any opponent. He’s 7-2-1 in those games with a .953 save percentage.
Mason had a career-best .928 save percentage in 51 games last season and made 29 saves in the opener but allowed three goals.
Philadelphia has lost 20 of its last 24 road games.