SUNRISE, Fla. – It’s been a long road back for Sean Bergenheim.
The left wing scored his first two regular-season goals in 18 months and Tim Thomas made 38 saves to lift the Florida Panthers over the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Monday night.
It was the first time Bergenheim scored in the regular season since March 20, 2012, also against Philadelphia. His last goal came on April 24, 2012, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the New Jersey Devils.
Bergenheim missed last season due to injury and was playing his 10th game this season. He had multiple surgeries before finally returning to the lineup on Oct. 25.
“It’s been such a long road and there’s been so many downs—a few ups, but mostly downs,” Bergenheim said. “It’s been tough, really.”
Bergenheim nearly put a third goal into an empty net but couldn’t get control of the puck in the closing seconds.
“Too bad I couldn’t finish that last one,” he said. “It was a good, good win. … All in all it feels good that we’re headed in the right direction.”
Erik Gudbranson also scored for Florida, his first of the season.
Wayne Simmonds scored for the Flyers, and Steve Mason stopped 28 shots.
The Panthers have won three of their past five games and evened the season series against the Flyers at a game apiece.
Philadelphia lost for the first time in four games and the second time in the past eight. The Flyers failed to get a point for the first time in eight games.
“Coming on the road, we wanted to play a simple game,” Simmonds said. “We complicated things and didn’t play the way we’ve been playing in previous games.”
The Panthers stretched their lead to 3-1 on Gudbranson’s fluky goal with just over 4 minutes left. Gudbranson took a shot from the point that bounced over Mason’s shoulder at 15:56.
“It was just about getting it through, getting it on net and hoping for the best,” Gudbranson said. “It’s nice to get the monkey off my back. I got a lucky bounce for it going up like that, but still it counts.”
The Flyers closed to 2-1 on Simmonds’ power-play goal at 7:06 of the third. Thomas stopped a shot by Scott Hartnell, but Simmonds got control of the rebound near the crease and wristed it past Thomas.
The Flyers were sluggish the first two periods and might have been guilty of overlooking the Panthers.
“I hope not,” coach Craig Berube said. “Who are we to overlook anybody? We talked about it before the game, about being ready. I’m not sure we were.”
Florida took a 1-0 lead in the second on Bergenheim’s first goal. The puck was bouncing around the Flyers’ net and Bergenheim had several attempts from behind. He stayed with it and finally slid in the puck with a wraparound on the short side at 3:35.
The Panthers had killed off a power play moments earlier that included a 5-on-3 for 1:23.
“(That) was huge. We had our chances,” Flyers forward Claude Giroux said. “Five-on-three has to be automatic.”
Florida went ahead 2-0 on Bergenheim’s second goal during a power play. Marcel Goc took a shot from the top of the left circle and Bergenheim tipped it past Mason on the glove side at 13:59 of the second. It was the first power-play goal for the Panthers in their last 10 attempts over three games.
NOTES: The Panthers placed RW Tomas Kopecky on injured reserve, retroactive to last Friday, with an upper-body injury. He is expected to miss two games. … Panthers D Matt Gilroy also is on injured reserve and is expected to miss at least three games with a lower-body injury. … Florida named its press box in memory of its first coach, the late Roger Neilson. … The Flyers began a stretch in which they will play nine of 11 games on the road.