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Barkov’s heavenly backhander gives Panthers 3-2 win over Devils

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Cats pass Islanders, pull within three points of Columbus

Toronto Maple Leafs v Florida Panthers Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Aleksander Barkov scored twice, rookie Maxim Mamin had a goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 29 shots for the Florida Panthers, who beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 for their fourth straight win on home ice. Florida is now three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Barkov opened the scoring 6:51 minutes into the first period. After taking a long stretch pass, Evgenii Dadonov fed Barkov and his centering pass for Nick Bjugstad was sticked away by Cory Schneider into the skate of Nico Hischier, who was trying to fend off the driving Bjugstad. The goal gave Barkov his first sixty-point season, a new career-high.

The Devils tied the game fifty seconds into the middle frame when Taylor Hall threw the puck at the net and Aaron Ekblad ended up deflecting it past Luongo with Bjugstad off for interference. The assists on the power-play goal went to new acquisition Patrick Maroon, making his debut with New Jersey, and defenseman Sami Vatenen. The goal was Hall’s 28th a new career-high for the dangerous winger.

Mamim continued the parade of strange goals 8:38 into the third when he tracked down Jared McCann’s dump-in and flicked it up and off Schneider’s shoulder and into the cage from along the goal line for his second tally of the season. Ekblad picked up the secondary assist on the go-ahead goal.

Barkov ended the parade with a beautiful backhander with 3:34 remaining in regulation to give the Panthers some breathing room, which they would eventually need. Dadonov took a pass from Bjugstad at center ice and then slipped a cheeky feed by Damon Severson to leave Barkov one-on-one with Schneider. Bakov displayed his oh so dirty mitts, roofing a shot glove side for his second of the night.

Maroon collected his second helper of the game when he poked the puck to an onrushing Jesper Bratt and he shoveled a backhand over Luongo’s glove to halve the deficit with 2:07 left to go and Schneider off for an extra attacker. The goal was Bratt first in nineteen games.

The Panthers would hold on to collect their 30th win of the season, giving them a stellar 11-3 record since the All-Star break. After taking a 2-0 lead in Los Angeles, the Blue Jackets ended up losing badly to the Kings, allowing the Cats to creep closer with three games in hand still remaining on John Tortorella’s bunch. Florida gets right back at it tonight, hosting the last place Buffalo Sabres, who are playing better recently, in the fifth tilt of the six-game homestand. Look for James Reimer to get the start.

Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)

Fire & Brimstone

  • With two goals in his sixtieth game of the season, Aleksander Barkov broke his career-high of 59 points set two years ago when he played 66 games. Barkov just missed out on his first-ever hat trick.
  • Taylor Hall has 21 points (11G/10A) while on a franchise-best 16-game point streak for New Jersey. Hall has actually scored in 23-straight appearances, but he missed three games in late January.
  • Cory Schneider returned after missing sixteen games with a groin/hip injury and finished with 26 saves for the Devils.
  • After going through a long period where he wasn’t appearing much on the score sheet, Jared McCann has put up four points in his last seven games.
  • Robert Luongo is 5-1 with a 2.48 GAA and .927 save percentage since returning from a lower-body injury on Feb. 17.
  • Micheal Haley and Patrick Maroon dropped the gloves 1:54 into the game. I guess Maroon wanted to make an early impression on his new team.
  • For more on the game that gave the Cats the season-series win, stop by All About The Jersey.

Condensed Game (courtesy of NHL.com)