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Plenty of excitement to go around as Nelson's Dryden Hunt plays first NHL game

Nelson's Dryden Hunt shows off the puck from his first NHL game Friday in Buffalo as a member of Florida Panthers. — photo courtesy Florida Panthers Hockey Team

There were a couple of firsts Friday night in Buffalo.

Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo moved into fourth spot overall in wins after backstopping Florida to a 4-1 NHL victory over the Sabres.

And Nelson Minor Hockey product Dryden Hunt played his first NHL game.

The 6-foot forward did not figure in the scoring, but Hunt had a birds-eye view of greatness in action as Bobby Lou moved past Curtis Joseph on the all-time list of wins with his 455th victory.

“Coming into tonight I really didn’t know what to expect but there was lots of excitement. . .. I mean, the team has been struggling of late and to get that win tonight, it was huge,” Hunt told the Florida media staff following his inaugural NHL game.

The Panthers fell behind early, but reeled off four straight goals — two into an empty net — to secure the victory.

Hunt, called up from the Panthers American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield Wednesday following the Thunderbirds game against Hershey, finished the game playing 14 shifts for just over 10 minutes of ice time.

“I think the puck moves a lot quicker,” the son of Carla DeBiasio and Jeff Hunt said when asked about the difference between the AHL and the NHL.

“Obviously, it’s faster but guys are all making good first passes and I think was kind of the difference.”

For a player’s first NHL game, teams fly in family to witness in person the their son’s life-changing event.

“It was awesome,” Hunt said about having his family present in Buffalo Friday.

“I got a day there to figure out their plans and their flights, ya, so it was awesome.”

Evgenii Dadonov and Aleksander Barkov each had a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Huberdeau had three assists for Florida.

No word on any future plans the Panthers have for Hunt.

Florida (5-8-2) was 0-3-2 since defeating the Anaheim Ducks 8-3 on October 26.

Tuesday, during a 3-1 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes, Luongo played his 972nd NHL game to pass Terry Sawchuk for third-most by a goalie in NHL history.

The Panthers travel to New Jersey Saturday to face the Devils.