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It’s Sasha Barkov Night As Quick Hat Trick Lifts Florida Panthers

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Florida Panthers captain Sasha Barkov is congratulated by Colin White after he scored his third goal of the first period in Florida’s eventual 7-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

SUNRISE — Sasha Barkov had an immediate impact on the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

Even if his first of three goals against the Canadiens went off of his skate.

After missing the past three games after getting whacked in the knee by New Jersey’s Nico Hischier, Barkov scored 2:37 into the game and had been gifted over two dozen ballcaps from his admirers with 4:38 left in the period.

Barkov’s fourth power play of his career was also the quickest to be completed in franchise history as all three of his goals came before the 16 minute mark of the game.

Florida ended up snapping a three-game slide with the resounding 7-2 win over the visiting Canadiens.

”I think the puck was following me in the first period and I was playing with some pretty good players who were going to find me,’’ said Barkov, who ended with five points.

“The puck is going to get to you. I just had to get open.”

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The quick hat trick all but overshadowed a strong game throughout the Florida lineup with Matthew Tkachuk scoring twice and Radko Gudas’ return after 10 games bringing a needed physical spark.

Florida ended its three-game slide (it had also lost six of eight) with five goals from Barkov and Tkachuk with Carter Verhaeghe and Eetu Luostarinen also getting in on the fun.

But make no mistake: Thursday night was Barkov Night in Sunrise.

Only he was not alone in a dominating win.

”It was very good. Just having our guys back really settled things down for us,” Tkachuk said. “You saw the first period with Barky; that’s a different animal, he changes the whole complexion.

“I thought Gudy was unbelievable tonight. Not many guys have what he does in this league with his physicality and changes the penalty kill. Every time he is on the ice, it feels like we’re in the offensive zone. And when we’re not, he gets us there. Great game.’’

The Panthers had a 2-0 lead at 11:50 of the first when Barkov got his second of the night — his first came less than two minutes in when Gus Forsling’s shot went off his skate and past old pal Sam Montembeault.

Montreal countered, but Barkov got No. 3 at 15:22 when he popped in a loose puck.

It was the quickest hat trick in franchise history — and came after he set the Florida record for power play goals surpassing Scott Mellanby.

Montreal closed to 3-2 at the end of the first off an extended power play but the Panthers kept on coming in the final 40 and blew the slumping Canadiens out.

Florida ended up getting three power play goals over three chances with Barkov and Tkachuk (twice) cashing in.

“I thought we were ready to be good early in the game,’’ coach Paul Maurice said, “and I think we gave up six even-strength shots in the final two periods. We got to be pretty good there, playing with the lead.’’

Said Tkachuk: ”Awesome, awesome game for Barky. He was at the net and that’s where the goals are scored. The best players find that small spot like on the third one — Sidney Crosby gets there a bunch. He has that knack. Gets five points and it is a different animal when he plays.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT CAROLINA HURRICANES

  • When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Florida won 3-0
  • This season (Florida leads 1-0): Florida 3, Carolina 2 (Nov. 9)
  • All-time regular season series: Carolina leads 69-46-10, 11 ties

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