SUNRISE — With 28.1 seconds to go in the first period of a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, Sasha Barkov became the first player in Florida Panthers history to hit 200 goals and the second player in franchise history to get to 500 points.
Anton Lundell found him all alone near the right face-off circle and — with a blast — the rest was history.
“It feels great, those are the milestones you’re going to think about after your career,” Barkov said afterward.
“Really happy to get it out of the way and playing on this team and playing with such great players is a pleasure, so I’m really happy.”
Barkov added another assist by the end of the night, bringing his career total to 501 points in 560 games.
“That’s a huge accomplishment, it’s not easy to score or get points in this league and he makes it look easy,” Sam Bennett said.
“He’s a heck of a player, a great leader, and he’s been a great role model for me ever since I got here, so I’m really happy for him.”
Only Jonathan Huberdeau has more points as a Panther with 557 points in 634 games.
Despite missing 13 games this season, Barkov still ranks second on the team in goals with 19 in 31 games.
“He is a pleasure to coach and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to coach him and to be with him the last three years,’’ coach Andrew Brunette said.
“There is no ego, he just wants to get better every day, he puts so much time into doing that, so it is fun to see him getting rewarded here the last few games and he has got some big goals for us here.”
For Barkov, this is certainly not the end of his run at making Panthers history.
Just before the season, he signed an eight-year, $80 million contract extension that will keep him in Florida until 2030.
“I’m going to be here for a long time,” Barkov said at the press conference following his extension.
“Being in the organization that drafted me and gave me a chance to play here, developed me into the player and human being I am right now is a huge thing for me. I’ve really loved every second here, my whole career.
“Never thought about anything else other than being here, playing here and trying to win a Stanley Cup here.”
At the very least, the Panthers are legitimate Cup contenders — the Golden Knights would certainly agree with that.
Zach Whitecloud put Vegas on the board early with a wrist shot from the right face-off circle with 12:09 to go in the first period.
Just 1:49 of game time after Barkov’s goal, Sam Bennett scored to put Florida up 2-1 early in the second period.
After nearly 40 minutes of defensive hockey and big saves from Spencer Knight, the Panthers finally sealed the deal with 53.6 seconds to go.
Mason Marchment came up with a steal near Vegas’ empty net and muscled it home to make it a 3-1 game.
Bennett added another empty netter 20 seconds later for good measure.
Knight finished the Knight(s) off with 24 saves on 25 shots.