SUNRISE: The Florida Panthers put a close to their 2022 at home tonight with a dominant 7-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
The Panthers will play Friday night in Carolina before starting the new year at home against the New York Rangers.
Here’s tonight’s takeaways:
Barkov returns with a career-night
The Panthers were without captain Aleksaner Barkov for three games after he was injured Dec. 17 in New Jersey.
In his first game back since the injury, Barkov did not wait long to put his stamp on the game. 2:37 into the first, Barkov took a point-shot from Gustav Forsling off the leg, and into the Habs net.
Later in the period, with the Panthers on the power play, Barkov let a shot fly from the circle and buried it past Montreal goalie Sam Montembeault.
Still in the first period, with Barkov now on hat trick watch, No. 16 put away his third goal of the period, and the hats rained from the rafters of FLA Live Arena.
Barkov finished his night back with 5 points, tying his career-high.
The boys are back in town – Gudas, Barkov, Ekblad
A few weeks ago it seemed like every night there was another player coming out of the Panthers lineup, while AHL call ups were coming in.
After a few additional days without a game following the holiday break, the Panthers got some of their big boys back; Barkov, Ekblad and Gudas.
Barkov had five points tonight, while Ekblad and Gudas shaped what has often been a depleted blue line this season.
“The guy had no points but Radko Gudas has a huge impact on that game tonight in terms of the minutes we have to play the other defenseman,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “Having those guys come back, it felt a little bit like the first game of the season in some ways, so there’s an excitement going out.”
Let the power play bells ring
With Florida having what was as close to a full lineup as possible tonight, they had all their top guns out there on power play unit 1.
The top unit delivered tonight, scoring on three of their attempts of the game, on goals from Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk (x2).
With Montreal also having luck tonight on the power play, these goals were important for Florida.
Matthew Tkachuk increases his team lead in points
It was a quiet few days for Matthew Tkachuk as the Panthers forward was going through his worst scoring drought of the season… three games.
Tkachuk made up for lost time tonight with four points, including two goals on the power play, right in front of the net.
“I think he was raised right to be at the net,” Aleksander Barkov said. “He knows where to be and what to do there, so it’s great to have that type of guy on the team.”
The 25-year-old now has team-high 44 points in just 33 games this season.
Tonight’s game felt a lot more like last year’s Panthers team
The 2021-2022 Panthers scored more goals than any team in the 2000’s. This year’s team however hasn’t been able to run away with games like they did last year.
Florida had a jump in their step from puck-drop and it looked like they were hungrier on the puck than Montreal.
Led by Barkov’s first period hat trick and an early second period goal by Matthew Tkachuk, Florida was in the driver’s seat.
The icing on the cake was an extremely dominating third period by the Cats, where they scored three goals while preventing Montreal from generating anything around Bobrovsky even-strength.
The night ended with a mid third period Pepas appearance, a seven goal performance and a “we want 10” chant from the Sunrise crowd.