Recap: Barkov goes bonkers in Panthers 7-2 rout of Canadiens

Cats captain makes triumphant return with three goals and two assists

Aleskander Barkov returned from a three-game absence and notched a hat trick and added two assists to spark the Florida Panthers in a 7-2 rout of the Montreal Canadiens at FLA Live Arena.

Barkov scored all three of his goals in the first period.

He opened the scoring at 2:37 heading to the front of the net after a winning a draw to body in a Gustav Forsling shot from the left point. Carter Verhaeghe sent the puck back to Forsling to get the second assist.

Barkov struck again at 11:50 mark, firing the puck over Sam Montembeault’s blocker from the left circle after receiving a crossing pass from Sam Reinhart with the secondary assist going to Matthew Tkachuk. The tally came with Joel Armia off for high-sticking and made Barkov Florida’s all-time leader in power-play goals with 67, passing Scott Mellanby.

After Arber Xhekaj hammered in a power-play goal, with assists going to Jonathan Drouin and Evgenii Dadonov, from the left-side point, Barkov answered 1:08 later by lifting a backhander over Montembeault from in close after Kaiden Guhle snuffed out a Colin White shot attempt and accidently kicked the puck over to the hungry Panthers captain. White and Aaron Ekblad could’ve gotten assists on the play, but didn’t as the goal went down as unassisted.

The Canadiens kept it close with their second power-play marker of the period. After playing catch with Xhekaj, Mike Hoffman put a shot on goal that Sergie Bobrovksy denied, only to have Josh Anderson pop the rebound in over his pad with 47 seconds left in the frame.

Florida got the only goal of the second period at 6:22 up a man due to too many men on the ice penalty on Montreal. Barkov sent the puck back to Brandon Montour and Tkachuk was able to deftly deflect his rising shot down and by a helpless Montembeault.

The Panthers extended the lead 4:14 into the third when White pressured Guhle into a turnover and Verhaeghe took possesion in the neutral zone and eventually roofed a shot on Montembeault when his option to cross to Barkov on the 2-on-1 was taken away.

Tkachuk bagged his second power-play goal of the night 3:10 later to put the Cats up by four. Barkov worked a give-and-go with Montour and snapped a high shot on Montembeault from just above the left circle that dropped to ice for Tkachuk to drive home.

Montour collected his third helper of the night at 9:31 when he sent Sam Bennett and Eetu Luostarinen away on a 2-on-1 break. Bennett slipped a pass under a diving Justin Barron and Luostarinen finished it off for his ninth goal, which equals his career-high.

Things got a little ugly after that with Joel Edmundson taking a cheap shot at Radko Gudas, after the Butcher got into it with Kirby Dach, which resulted in Marc Staal tossing Edmundson to the ice, and Montour throwing down with Brendan Gallagher.

Other than the Habs converting both power-play opportunites in the first, there was a lot to like about this one. The Panthers scored a season-high seven times on 41 shots, went 3 for 6 with the man-advantage, were dominant on faceoffs (59%) and got big performances from its big guns to blow away another troubled team. Refortified Florida needs to build on this win tonight when they journey to Raleigh to face the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes, who are 9-0-1 in their last ten games.

Cote et Fins

  • Aleksander Barkov sizzled in his return to the lineup. Barkov finished with his fourth career hat trick, added two assists, put five shots on goal and was credited with one hit while playing 18:42. He became the sixth player in Panthers history to score three goals in a single period and just the second skater with as many in the opening frame joining Steven Reinprecht (10/30/2009).
  • In addition to producing two goals and an assist, Matthew Tkachuk registered a game-high nine shots and blocked a shot. Tkachuk leads the Cats in scoring with 43 points.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky delivered a quality start, finishing with 25 stops to pick up his eighth win. Former Panther Sam Montembeault went the distance for the Habs and made 34 saves.
  • Ex-Cats Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov each finished with a helper. Hoffman led the Candiens with five shots on goal.
  • 27-year-old Finn Anton Levtchi made his NHL debut and was credited with a shot on goal in 9:41 TOI.
  • For more on Florida’s slump buster, visit Eyes On The Prize./