On October 5, 2005, the Florida Panthers defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 2-0 to collect their first of 37 wins during the 2005/06 NHL season, their first since the 2003/04 season after the 2004/05 season was canceled due to a lockout.
Before the opener, the Panthers completed their final offseason move by sending LW Greg Campbell to AHL affiliate Rochester Americans. Tickets for it sold like hot-cakes with less than 500 tickets being available just prior to the Panthers dropping the puck. The anthem was sung by the “Singing Policeman”, Daniel Rodriguez, who was famous for his stirring rendition of “God Bless America” after the 9/11 attacks.
Nathan Horton and Lukas Krajicek both scored to put the Cats on the board, while a defense which included Jay Bouwmeester and Steve Montador helped the Cats shutout the Thrashers with the help of Roberto Luongo in net. Horton’s goal was unassisted, while Kristian Huselius and captain Olli Jokinen got the helpers on Krajicek’s goal. Head coach Jacques Martin became the 7th consecutive Panthers’ head coach to win his first game and the then fourth of the last five new Panthers’ coaches to have a shutout in their first game.
Fans became optimistic after the club won the opening game of the season and were also excited for the matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning; intra-state rivals and defending Stanley Cup Champions.The Panthers went on to beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and maintained a decent record until going on a streak that saw the Cats win only 3 of 20 games. The season ended with the team placing fourth in the Southeast Division, 10th in the Eastern Conference, and failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoff for the fifth consecutive year.
On September 3rd, 2006, Mike Keenan resigned from his position as General Manager shortly after trading away franchise goaltender Roberto Luongo, and was subsequently replaced by Jacques Martin.