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Barkov Makes History (Again) as Panthers Beat the Rangers



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Florida captain Sasha Barkov, middle, celebrates Evan Rodrigues’ first-period goal with Brandon Montour as New York Rangers goalie Jonathan Quick looks on. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

SUNRISE — In the space of a game against the New York Rangers, Sasha Barkov showed just how important he is to the Florida Panthers.

Going up against the team atop the NHL standings, Barkov dished out three primary assists to help lead the Panthers to a 4-3 victory.

Those three assists tied him for the franchise record with Jonathan Huberdeau at 415.

He already owned the team’s record for goals (254), points (669), and games played (696), among many others.

We all know how good Barkov is, right?

“Yeah, wow,” Matthew Tkachuk said when informed of yet another Barkov milestone.

“I’m sure there will be another record broken very soon, and he has just been incredible all year. From the start of camp, he just drives everything for us, and even ever since I’ve been here, he’s just been the best player and the best leader I could learn from. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

As is tradition with Barkov, his assists came in big moments and with a touch of panache. 

Although Jonathan Quick had been stoning the Panthers for most of the first period — he stopped nine quality shots — Barkov won a battle near the boards and slipped the puck over to Evan Rodrigues. 

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Rodrigues put the Panthers up 1-0 with a quick top-shelf wrist shot with 1:15 to go in the first period.

Barkov got flashy with his second assist of the night, slipping a backhand wrist shot from behind the net to Sam Reinhart.

Reinhart gave Florida a 2-0 lead 7:12 into the second period.

“He is unbelievable,” Carter Verhaeghe said of Barkov. 

“He is our best player; he has been here forever; he is the captain of our team, our leader, and I see it on a nightly basis.

“A lot of times I was playing with him the last couple of years, he was so easy to play with and so easy to read off. And now I get a front-row seat to watch him play. He is one of the best players in the world and he deserves everything. He is such a humble guy.”

After the Rangers quickly picked up a couple of goals in the latter half of the second period, Barkov fired back quickly.

Reinhart deflected a shot of his past Quick on the power play with 2:53 to go in the second period to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead.

That lead was in jeopardy when Barkov left the game with 8:37 to go in the second period after taking a shot to the head from Alexis Lafreniere.

Once the penalty was reduced from a 5-minute major to a 2-minute minor — which Panthers coach Paul Maurice refused to comment on — Mika Zibanejad tied the game with a shorthanded goal.

All was not lost for the Panthers.

Verhaeghe gave the Panthers the lead back with a shot through traffic with 6:23 to go, and Barkov returned a few minutes later.

“You can’t afford to lose any players, but elite players are irreplaceable,” Maurice said. “So we were very fortunate he was healthy enough to return.”

Barkov’s second act came in soon afterward.

The 2021 Selke Trophy winner made an instant impact as the Panthers shut down the NHL’s best team to secure a victory.

“Barkov went out, and after that, we shifted our game,” Maurice said.

“Right after we discussed our game, he threw a hit and got us right back to where we needed to go. That’s leadership there in small pieces because we were not right. … [We tried to force cross-ice passes] … then he went through a hit, we got into the offensive corner, and our game got right back there.”

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  • When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise 
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season: Florida won 4-0
  • This Season — At Montreal: Panthers 5, Canadiens 1 (Nov. 30). At Florida: Saturday; Feb. 29.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 56-38-11, 6 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Jan. 2, 2024, at Arizona, 9 p.m.

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