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Bertuzzi enjoys fine Florida debut as Panthers cruise

Oct 7, 2006 - 2:25 AM SUNRISE, Florida (Ticker) -- Todd Bertuzzi felt right at home in his new surroundings. Joe Nieuwendyk felt right at home playing against the Boston Bruins.

Bertuzzi scored a goal and set up three others and Nieuwendyk tallied twice and added an assist as the Florida Panthers rolled to an 8-3 victory over the Bruins in the season opener for both teams.

Acquired in a blockbuster trade that sent goaltender Roberto Luongo to Vancouver during the offseason, the much-maligned Bertuzzi was hoping to get off to a fresh start in the "Sunshine State." Things could not have worked out better for the power forward as he opened the scoring with a power-play goal 6 1/2 minutes into the game.

"It was a point shot. The rebound came to me," said Bertuzzi, who tied a career high with four points. "I was pretty jacked up, obviously. You want to get one right off the horn and get it over with. So it was nice to get one right away."

"I think we knew with Todd, we felt we were getting a power forward to help the club," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "When you look at last year, the one area we felt we were probably lapsing in... He's a big man that moves to the net and has great hands. His goal is a good example of a shot that was pulled on the rebound. It demonstrated skills to be able to score like that."

With the Panthers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Bertuzzi set up Nieuwendyk nine minutes into the second period for his first goal of the contest.

"I was just driving hard to the net," Nieuwendyk said. "Todd has that knack for finding the open end. I was trying to move my feet for him and get in some open space. He made a great play across the goal mouth. It went off my skate, but those things count."

The pair teamed up again on Nieuwendyk's second tally 83 seconds into the final session and assisted on Nathan Horton's power-play goal just over five minutes later, giving Florida a 6-2 bulge.

"It's a great start for (Bertuzzi), no doubt about it," Nieuwendyk said. "I think it's important for him, too. When you come to a new team, you really want to get off to a good start and get things moving, and he certainly did that tonight."

The three-point effort continued Nieuwendyk's impressive offensive showing against Boston throughout his impressive career. In 43 contests vs. the Bruins, the 40-year-old has collected 23 goals and 22 assists.

Nieuwendyk's second goal was the 561st of his career, moving him past Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur for 19th place on the all-time list.

"To go ahead of him on the all-time goals list is a great thrill," Nieuwendyk said. "I remember being in awe of him when I played against him early in my career. It's kind of a neat thing."

Also coming over from Vancouver in the summer deal, Alex Auld made 34 saves for Florida, which went 4-for-6 on the power play.

"It was great to get that kind of support," Auld said. "It's a great start and it sets a good mood for the season."

"I think Alex was solid in net," Martin said. "He made some big saves, especially in the second (period). He was our best penalty-killer."

Captain Olli Jokinen had a goal and an assist while former Bruin Jozef Stumpel, Rostislav Olesz and defenseman Ruslan Salei each set up two tallies for the Panthers, who improved to 5-0-2 in season openers at home.

"It's a good start," Nieuwendyk said. "You never know what to expect on Opening Night."

Marco Sturm recorded a goal and an assist and new captain Zdeno Chara added two assists for Boston, which fell to 6-19-5 when it begins the season on the road.

"I think our guys can respond from this and play much better," Bruins coach Dave Lewis said. "At times, we did a lot of good things, but then we had the collapse. We have to improve in the way we handle the flow of the game, and especially the play in our zone."

Just 43 seconds after Bertuzzi scored on a 5-on-3 advantage, defenseman Mike Van Ryn made it 2-0 with a power-play tally. Sturm halved the deficit for Boston before Juraj Kolnik restored the two-goal lead with 91 seconds to go in the first period.

Glen Murray drew the Bruins within 3-2 only 29 seconds into the middle session, but the Panthers netted the next five tallies - including four in the third - to break open the game.

"For the first two periods, we were in it," Boston defenseman Brad Stuart said. "We had a lot of chances early, but then it slowly deteriorated and turned ugly really quick."

Tim Thomas made 27 saves for the Bruins but was replaced by Hannu Toivonen after Chris Gratton's goal, which gave the Panthers a 7-2 lead at 8:21 of the third.

"I pride myself in being pretty stable and steady, but things obviously fell apart on me," Thomas said. "It was certainly not the opening I expected or wanted, but it's just one game and you have to move on."






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