DALLAS -- In a night of comebacks and firsts, Panthers recently signed goalie Tim Thomas and their top draft pick Aleksander Barkov lived up to their hype.
In his first game that mattered in 17 months, Thomas was spectacular in turning aside 37 shots, while 18-year-old Barkov, the second overall pick of the 2013 draft, scored his first NHL goal in his first game to it at 9:28 of the third.
But it was Marcel Goc's game-winner off a sweet centering feed from Tomas Fleischmann with 4:55 left and then his empty-netter with 1:29 remaining that provided the happy ending to a 4-2 victory in front of 16,110 disappointing fans at American Airlines Center Thursday night.
The Panthers, who lost twice to the undefeated Stars (5-0-2) in preseason, improved to 10-7-1-2 in season openers and 6-12-2 on the road, while Dallas didn't earn a point in a home season opener for the first time since 1999 (11-1-3).
The Panthers, coming off a disastrous season, kicked off a franchise-record long season-opening, four-game road trip in excellent fashion and next fly to St. Louis to take on the Blues Saturday night.
It was a matchup of two rebuilt teams, although the Panthers remodeling job didn't come until the final week of the preseason when new owner Vincent Viola's cash helped bring five veterans to Florida, including Thomas.
In a fast-paced first period Panthers defensemen Mike Weaver and Dmitry Kulikov got pummeled in separate brawls in defense of their new swing-yielding goalie, who was getting buzzed by a couple of swarming Stars.
Kulikov and Stars center Ryan Garbutt were ejected for getting into a secondary fight at 11:20 of the first.
Three minutes later the Panthers fourth line, normally considered a defensive trio, clicked as Drew Shore won his individual battle for the puck in the corner. That allowed Scottie Upshall to swoop in behind the Stars' net where he centered it for a Scott Gomez layup and a 1-0 lead at 8:59.
Gomez, 33, the Panthers' first meaningful offseason addition, had just two goals in 39 games for the Sharks last season. He has scored double-digit goals 10 times, but none since 2009-10.
"The play was nice, it's not the first time I've ever done that in 15 years," Gomez said. "Team played well, it's on the road. My linemates made the play."
However, the new rule which saw goal frames trimmed by four inches on each side to give players more room to roam behind the net led to Dallas' first goal when rookie Alex Chiasson beat Thomas on a wraparound at 7:25 of the ssecond. Former Panthers favorite Ray Whitney, 41, notched an assist.
Chiasson, the 38th overall pick in 2009, now has seven goals in his first eight NHL games.
Backup goalie Scott Clemmensen, who cleared waivers Thursday, will report to the Panthers' AHL affiliate in San Antonio for two rehabilitation starts and a full week of practice.
Clemmensen, 36, who was cleared to play on Tuesday after recovering from a preseason knee procedure, is on injured reserve, so he couldn't play in the first four games anyway.
The Panthers clearly want 23-year-old Jacob Markstrom to gain more NHL experience while watching Thomas' every moves. They had hoped that a team in need of goaltending, such as the Penguins, would've picked up Clemmensen's $1.3 million salary.
Dineen said that when Clemmensen completes his stint in San Antonio, management will, "re-evaluate," the goaltending situation. ...
The Panthers' three healthy scatches were forwards Joey Crabb, Krys Barch and defenseman Matt Gilroy. ...
The Panthers named Travis Viola, son of new owner Vincent Viola, as vice president of hockey operations and special projects for the team and BB&T Center.
Viola will work with team president Michael Yormark and GM Dale Tallon.
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