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In big moments, Florida Panthers call on Sasha Barkov. He delivers



Barkov gudas
Radko Gudas celebrates the Florida Panthers’ 3-2 overtime win over the New York Islanders with hero Sasha Barkov on Tuesday night at USB Arena on Long Island. — AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

ELMONT, N.Y. — With so many players on the Florida Panthers having career seasons, somehow Sasha Barkov has been lost in the shuffle.

With a hat trick in Florida’s 3-2 win over the New York Islanders, Barkov hit a career-high of 37 goals.

And he missed 13 games this season.

“He’s had a great season, kind of quietly,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said.

”Other guys have had career season and Jonathan Huberdeau’s season has been off the charts, so he gets lost in the shuffle a little bit.”

At times, it is hard not to notice him.

Tuesday night was one of those times.

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Barkov took over late in the game, tying it up with 3:58 to go and scored the overtime winner to put the Panthers on top.

“He reminds you with nights like this about how great of a player he is,” Brunette said.

”He’s had a tremendous season and if he was healthy he would probably be up there with Huberdeau in the scoring race.”

Despite missing so many games, he is not too far off.

While Huberdeau leads the NHL in points with 111, Barkov is 17th with 85 points in just 63 games.

Had he played in all of Florida’s 76 games (as Huberdeau did), he would be on pace for 102 points.

“He is a very special player,” Gus Forsling said.

“Every time he steps on the ice, he does something special. It’s fun to be around a guy like that and he’s a great teammate as well.”

In the middle of what has been a dominant season for Barkov, he had a couple of setbacks.

He missed time with a lower-body injury he sustained on Nov. 16; then he got hit high and was out with an upper-body injury upon his return to the lineup on Dec. 7.

The injuries did not deter Barkov at all.

Since he returned Dec. 29, he has the sixth-most points in the league with 67 in 47 games.

“It was tough to be out, but at the same time the team was doing well, so I did not have to rush back,” Barkov said.

”I was able to concentrate on being 100 percent ready to play in the games. I took my time, we have great trainers here, they got me ready to play and after that I was just playing games and feeling great.”

With the playoffs on the horizon, it has again been Barkov who has been stepping up for the Panthers.

Since March 15, Barkov has 11 goals and 25 points in 17 games.

“That’s why he’s our captain,” Brunette said.

“He’s a great player and he shows it every night. You see him. I’m not sure how he keeps getting better but you appreciate how great of a player he is.”



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