SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov recorded a hat trick in the first period and helped his team snap a three-game losing streak with a 7-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Barkov scored the first two goals of the game within the first 11:50 and made it 3-1 with his third of the period.
Florida also got a pair of goals from Matthew Tkachuk with Carter Verhaeghe and Eetu Luostarinen scoring in the third as Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 saves in the win.
“I obviously got some bounces and was playing with some pretty good players who were going to find me,” said Barkov, who ended with five points. “We played exactly the way we wanted to. We have to keep this up, playing the right way.”
Montreal, which has lost its past four, got goals from Arber Xhekaj and Josh Anderson.
Sam Montembeault, claimed off waivers by Montreal from Florida in 2021, took the loss after making 34 saves.
Barkov got the fourth hat trick of his career with three goals scored in vastly different ways.
The first, 2:37 into the game, came when Gustav Forsling’s shot hit Barkov’s skate and went past Montembeault.
Barkov, playing in his first game after missing the past three with a lower-body injury, got his second on a snapshot from the left circle while the third was scored in front of the net off a loose puck.
“He changes every part of your game,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said of having Barkov back.
Florida led 3-2 going into the second after Anderson scored his ninth of the season on an extended power play with 46.1 seconds remaining in the first.
Tkachuk gave Florida some breathing room with the team’s second power play goal of the game by deflecting a long shot from Brandon Montour at 6:22 of the second.
“I thought we were ready to be good early in the game,” 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.’’
Verhaeghe’s team-leading 18th goal came on a breakaway at 4:14 of the third. Tkachuk made it 6-2 at 7:24 of the third with the team’s third power play goal of the night.
“Barkov coming back from injury, he obviously had a very good first period,” Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said. “That kind of carried them through the game. Those are repetitions you cannot buy. They learned from that.”
Canadiens: At Washington on Saturday night.
Panthers: At Carolina on Friday night.
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