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Florida Panthers, Barkov Quiet a Raucous Madison Square Garden

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Sam Reinhart, right, points at Sasha Barkov after scoring on the power play in the second period of Florida’s eventual 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Monday night. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

NEW YORK — Rarely have the Florida Panthers visited Madison Square Garden with the atmosphere as electric as it was on Monday. 

As they used to say in the heyday of the Islanders-Rangers rivalry, The Garden will be rocking tonight!

There was plenty of hype for the Panthers and Rangers at the Garden, two teams leading the Eastern Conference standings squaring off. 

Both teams were red-hot.

The Panthers stayed that way, winning their fifth straight and 11th in 12 games with a 4-2 win. 

As meaningful as this game was, it was almost an afterthought postgame as conversation centered around Sasha Barkov’s amazing assist on the first Panthers’ goal.

Barkov’s juggling act set up Sam Reinhart’s 43rd goal of the season and his league-leading 25th on the power play.

In case you were sleeping all night or have yet to check your favorite social media outlet, here is how it unfolded:

In the second period, Rangers’ newest cult hero, Matt Rempe, was penalized for trying to make Eetu Luostarinen part of the on-board advertising (he missed and tripped him instead).

On the ensuing power play Barkov picked up a bouncing pass from Carter Verhaeghe by the left circle, flipped it up on the blade of his stick a few times while circumnavigating defender K’Andre Miller. 

Then, while falling, Barkov nudged it over to Reinhart, standing alone at the edge of the crease. 

Forgive Reinhart for being astonished by Barkov’s magic. 

The tap-in was probably the easiest of his 44 goals this season.

Everything that followed in the 4-2 Panthers victory was anti-climactic.

“It’s like most of the things with him,” Paul Maurice said of Barkov, “you’ve got to go back and watch it on video. Because you just don’t appreciate it live. … A pretty amazing, gifted young man.”


Nevertheless, Reinhart, who is used to his centerman’s star qualities, was equally amazed.

“I had a pretty good vantage point watching him make that play,” Reinhart said. “It was pretty nice and kind of expected of him.”

When asked about concentrating when you see an astonishing play like that, he added, “When you see it every day, it makes it a little bit easier.”

Lost in the excitement was that Reinhart has five goals in the last three games, and the Panthers have won 15 of their past 17 going into Jersey tonight. 

Barkov was his usual modest and low-key self after the game. 

He preferred to talk about the overall experience of playing a big game in New York.

If things work out, the Panthers and Rangers could be playing more meaningful games down the road as both would be favored to play for in the Eastern Conference final.

“Just going into an NHL game at Madison Square Garden, you’re concentrating,” Barkov said. “This is one of those places where you don’t need extra motivation. You come here to New York in the ‘most famous arena,’ so it’s always fun to play here, no matter what.”

As for the big play that the rest of the hockey world is buzzing about?

“I think it was just a goal,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how it goes in the net. It was obviously a big goal for us to get us going.”
Ryan Lomberg, by the way, scored the winning goal, firing a wrister from the top of the circle, which deflected off Jacob Trouba and froze Igor Shesterkin.

Lomberg, too, wanted to talk about the play of his captain.

“Still shocked,” Lomberg said. “I think it’s crazy. He doesn’t even understand how sick it was. He’s so nonchalant. That’s him. It’s just like another assist because that’s how he carries himself. But being able to watch that live and seeing the team’s reaction, it was pretty sweet.”

So was Florida’s win as they quieted a large crowd rooting against them. 

The Panthers will return for a nationally televised game later this month before both teams head to the playoffs. 

Barkov and the Panthers will be ready.

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ NEW JERSEY DEVILS

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Prudential Center, Newark
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM 2;WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Local Odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-190); Puck line (-1.5, +120); Over/Under 6.5 (+100/-125)
  • Season Series (Tied 1-1) — At New Jersey: Panthers 4, Devils 3 (October 16)Tuesday. At Florida: Devils 4, Panthers 1 (Jan. 13).
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Devils lead 58-36-7, 7 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

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