Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski didn't have a point in Saturday's action-packed 5-4 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators, but he still stole the show.

For the first time in nearly 10 months, the Panthers had their captain back as he followed goalie Tim Thomas onto the ice to generous applause from the 15,796 BB&T Center faithful, who have always considered Jovo a favorite even after he spent nearly 12 of his 17 NHL seasons in other cities.

Jovanovski, 37, who hadn't played since March 16, 2012 before undergoing hip resurfacing surgery, is believed to be the first professional athlete of the four major sports to come back from such a serious procedure.

"The legs were getting a little heavy, something I probably expected, but overall it was a nice win and makes your body feel that much better,'' said Jovanovski, who played a surprising 15:54 minutes and received the postgame, goofy hero hat. "It's a nice start.''

For good measure, Jovanovski had a game-high plus-3 ice rating, as did his defensive partner Alex Petrovic, who left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury.