Recap: Barkov hits milestones in Panthers 4-1 win over Vegas

Spencer Knight shuts down Golden Knights with 24 saves

Aleksander Barkov reached two milestones with a shorthanded goal late in the first period of the Florida Panthers tough 4-1 win over the visiting Vegas Golden Knights.

After Zach Whitecloud opened the scoring at 7:51 by sending a rising shot from the right faceoff dot over Spencer Knight’s shoulder, Barkov tied the game with 29 seconds left in the frame after a stellar effort on the penalty kill.

Barkov tracked down old teammate Reilly Smith at center ice, stole the puck from him, dished off to Anton Lundell to gain the zone, and then readied himself to one-time the rookie’s return cross past Robin Lehrer for both his 200th career goal and 500th NHL point. Wow!

It was Barkov’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season, tying him with Columbus wing Gustav Nyquist for the league lead.

Sam Bennett bagged the eventual game-winner 1:18 into the second with an unassisted end-to-end rush that culminated with him whipping a wrister from just above the left circle that Lehner got a piece of, but not enough of to keep the former Flame from establishing a new career-high in goals with 19. Bennett would notch Florida’s second empty-net goal to complete the scoring with 19 seconds left, from Jonathan Huberdeau and Barkov, to hit 20 goals for the first time.

Mason Marchment also scored with Lehner off for an extra attacker 25 seconds before Bennett’s clincher to finally give the Panthers some breathing room.

Most expected Sergei Bobrovsky in net against the Pacific-leading Golden Knights, but Andrew Brunette made the right call going with his rookie keeper, who stopped 24 of 25 shots to win for the third time in his last four starts. Knight came up with a big save on Nicolas Roy’s backhander with 5:19 in regulation to preserve a tenuous Cats lead.

The Panthers beat one of the best in the west to collect win number 30 on the season. Florida’s 65 points is tops in the NHL and their .739 points percentage is third best in the league behind the Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes. Up next for the Cats is a home date against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday before a two-game roadie that sees visits to the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers and then they will break for the All-Star Game before resuming play on February 16.

Swords & Shields

  • Florida (22-3) equaled the NHL record for the most victories through 25 home games, which had been done four times, most recently by the 2011-12 Detroit Red Wings (22-2-1). The 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens (22-0-3 ties), the 1970-71 Boston Bruins (22-2-1 tie) and the 2008-09 San Jose Sharks (22-1-2) were the other teams to win 22 out of 25.
  • Aleksander Barkov is the first player to ever score 200 goals for the Panthers. He hit that mark and the 500-point plateau in his 560th NHL game.
  • Sam Bennett’s previous high of 18 goals came during his rookie campaign in 2015-16. It only took the 25-year-old 34 games this season to eclipse his old mark. Bennett has poured in 11 goals this month to take over the team lead in that category.
  • Mattias Janmark and Shea Theodore had the assists on the only Vegas goal. Theodore was dispossessed of the puck by Mason Marchment on his clinching empty-netter.
  • After missing four games in COVID protocol, Gustav Forsling returned to the lineup and registered two shots on goal and +2 rating in 22:58 TOI.
  • Despite the loss, Robin Lehner delivered a quality start, stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced.
  • For more on Florida’s 30th win of the season, ante up at Knights On Ice./

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