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Trip Helped Florida Panthers in the Standings — and Stat Sheet

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Sasha Barkov celebrates his 23rd goal in 32 games against the Montreal Canadiens with teammates Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart and Gus Forsling on Thursday night. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

Perhaps the Florida Panthers should think about spending more time in Canada.

Their stats certainly appreciated the trip.

The Panthers looked very good this week as they went 2-0-1 — and very easily could have been 3-0 — as they outscored Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal 11-2.

Sergei Bobrovsky may have started the year slowly, allowing 15 goals in his first five games (3.06/.899), but after giving up just one goal in his two Canadian starts, he is now at 2.41/.912.

And, don’t forget Anthony Stolarz.

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Although charged with the shootout loss in Toronto, the one goal he allowed in regulation brought his GAA down to 1.99 which looks real sharp with his .929 save percentage.

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Sasha Barkov, who scored his 250th career goal, continues to own Montreal.

With a goal and an assist Thursday, Barkov now has 23 goals and 43 points in 32 career games against the Canadiens.

And Florida’s penalty kill continues to be red hot.

Perfect in 18 PKs in the three games and 26 consecutive kills over the last six games, it seems like ages ago when the Panthers were tied for last in the NHL with a rate of 65.2 percent.

With the recent performances, Florida is at a more respectable 82.5 percent, good for 13th place.

Paul Maurice explained that the early PK numbers were not good but at the same time they were “not real,” owing to a two-man deficit, a few bad bounces, an empty netter on the PK and missing key personnel such as Aaron Ekblad and Sam Bennett.

In explaining the improvement, he said, “our penalty killing now has confidence, it’s got speed, it’s got pace,” while praising the work of Eetu Luostarinen and newcomer Kevin Stenlund.

“At the end of it, it would be goaltending, penalty killing and hard on some pucks,’’ Maurice said. “We had a real good road trip.”

The power play still struggles but by going 1-for-4 against the Canadiens, the Panthers moved to an 18 percent success rate after starting the road trip at 15.6 percent.

Sam Reinhart has cooled from his torrid early season pace but Oliver Ekman-Larson, with his sixth goal, has exceeded his totals for each of the previous three seasons.

He is another in a long line of Bill Zito reclamation projects.

Carter Verhaeghe, with his 10th goal of the season in Montreal, is on a pace similar to last season’s career year.

The Panthers just hope they don’t cool down upon returning to sunny South Florida.

ON DECK

NEW YORK ISLANDERS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • This Season — At Florida: Saturday; March 28. At Islanders: Jan 27.
  • All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 56-33-11, 8 ties
  • Next Up for the Panthers: Wednesday vs. Dallas, 7 p.m. (TNT)

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