Thornton, Panthers top Coyotes to remain undefeated


SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers won their sixth straight game to start the season, 5-3 against the Arizona Coyotes at FLA Live Arena on Monday.

Joe Thornton scored his first goal with Florida (6-0-0), and Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and an assist. Spencer Knight made 18 saves; he has not lost in his six NHL regular-season games.

Dating to last season, the Panthers have won 12 consecutive regular-season games.

“We’re feeling good,” Florida forward Frank Vatrano said. “We’re confident. We know how good of a team we have, and we just need to keep going game by game and keep putting these ones up early.”

Phil Kessel scored his first goal of the season for the Coyotes, who don’t have a win in their first six games for the second time in Arizona/Winnipeg history; they were also 0-5-1 in 2017-18. It was the first of a six-game road trip.

Carter Hutton saved 10 of 11 shots before leaving after the first period because of a lower-body injury. Karej Vejmelka made 26 saves in relief.

“You never hope to go through it, but we’re in the thick of it and there’s no easy way out,” forward Christian Fischer said. “It’s going to take a lot of work. It’s early but it [stinks].”

Arizona also lost defenseman Conor Timmins and forward Ryan Dzingel in the second period. Timmins sustained a lower-body injury after being checked into the boards by Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas, and Dzingel has an upper-body injury.

There was no update from the Coyotes on any of the injured players after the game.

Clayton Keller gave Arizona a 1-0 lead at 17:43 of the first period on its first shot on goal. He beat Knight on a breakaway after a pass from Nick Schmaltz.

Video: ARI@FLA: Keller goes five-hole and scores

Thornton, who signed with the Panthers on Aug. 13, tied it 1-1 when the 42-year-old scored a power-play goal at 19:41 on a rebound in front.

“Yeah, it was great,” Thornton said. “Felt good. A good play by [Sam Reinhart] to kind of whack it over and it was just an open net so just put it in. Those are just worker goals. That’s where they’re scored these days and guys were willing to go there and it paid dividends.”

Florida outshot Arizona 11-1 in the first period.

Vatrano gave Florida a 2-1 lead at 6:00 of the second on a rebound of Brandon Montour‘s shot from a sharp angle.

Aaron Ekblad made it 3-1 at 10:19 with another power-play goal when his shot from the point went off Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun.

Arizona has allowed nine power-plays goals in 14 shorthanded situations this season.

“We need to find a solution on the PK,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “We need to block shots and become aggressive.”

Video: ARI@FLA: Huberdeau finishes off 2-on-0

Huberdeau made it 4-1 at 6:54 of the third period when he finished off a 2-on-0 with Bennett after Owen Tippett stole the puck from defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere just outside Arizona’s blue line.

The Coyotes cut it to 4-3 with two goals in 34 seconds. Liam O’Brien made it 4-2 at 11:57 with a shot from the right circle, and Kessel scored at 12:31.

Anthony Duclair scored an empty-net goal with 39 seconds left for the 5-3 final.

“We knew going into it, it was kind of a dangerous opponent and I think that being respectful from start to finish is part of it,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “Sometimes you get ahead, you get a little careless. We got a couple of situations that we misplayed and both ended up in the net, [then] it’s hockey game.

“We nailed it down at the end, but certainly don’t take anything for granted in this game.”

NOTES: Thornton (42 years, 115 days) became the second-oldest player in Panthers history to score a goal. Jaromir Jagr was 45 years, 45 days when he scored April 1, 2014. … Reinhart’s assist was his 300th NHL point. … The Panthers became the 25th NHL team to win at least its first six games to start a season, and the first since the 2015-16 Montreal Canadiens won their first nine. … Montour had two assists. … Chychrun, who grew up in Boca Raton, Florida, led all skaters with 26:46 of ice time.

Video: Thornton tallies first goal as Panther in win

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