Barkov has hat trick, 5 points for Panthers in win against Canadiens

SUNRISE, Fla. — Aleksander Barkov had a hat trick and two assists in his return from injury, helping the Florida Panthers to a 7-2 victory against the Montreal Canadiens at FLA Live Arena on Thursday.

Barkov, who had missed the previous three games with a knee injury, got his fourth career hat trick.

“It feels like I got some bounces there,” Barkov said. “Playing with really good players, they’re going to find me. That’s about it.”

Video: MTL@FLA: Tkachuk scores PPG in 2nd period

Matthew Tkachuk had two goals and an assist, and Carter Verhaeghe had a goal and an assist for the Panthers (16-16-4), who had lost three in a row. Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 saves.

Arber Xhekaj had a goal and an assist, and Josh Anderson scored for the Canadiens (15-18-3), who have lost four straight and are 1-6-1 in their past eight games. Sam Montembeault made 34 saves.

“I like the fight we had tonight, especially in the first [period],” Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said. “It wasn’t perfect, but we were fighting.”

Florida was 3-for-6 on the power play; Montreal was 2-for-4. The Canadiens have allowed six goals on their past 12 penalty kills.

“Our PK is struggling right now,” St. Louis said. “For a good part of the early season, we were going really well. Now, we’re facing some really good power plays and we’re just off a little bit. You’ve got to give them credit, and for us, as much as it’s growing pains a little bit, you can’t buy those reps.”

 Video: Barkov gets a hat trick in the 1st period

Barkov gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead 2:37 into the first period when Gustav Forsling‘s shot from the point went off Barkov’s waist area, then made it 2-0 at 11:50 with a wrist shot from the left face-off circle on the power play.

Xhekaj cut it to 2-1 at 14:14 with a power-play goal on a slap shot from the point.

Barkov completed his hat trick at 15:22 when he got a loose puck in front of the net and lifted a backhand over Montembeault.

“He’s one of the top in the League, so if you give a player like that space and time, he’s going to make you pay,” Xhekaj said. “That’s what he did tonight.”

Video: MTL@FLA: Verhaeghe scores in 3rd period

Anderson made it 3-2 at 19:13 on a rebound in the final minute of a 5-3 power play.

Tkachuk extended the lead to 4-2 at 6:22 of the second period with another power-play goal when he tipped Brandon Montour‘s shot from the point.

Verhaeghe made it 5-2 at 4:14 of the third period with a short-range shot over Montembeault’s right shoulder.

“We know what we need to do, and we want to do it again,” Verhaeghe said. “We want to play the same way, win or lose. We want to stick with our game and try and build it. It’s a good one tonight, but we’ve got to keep going here.”

Video: MTL@FLA: Tkachuk fires in a SHG in the 3rd period

Tkachuk put the Panthers ahead 6-2 at 7:24 on the power play. Eetu Luostarinen scored at 9:31 for the 7-2 final.

“We played exactly how we wanted,” said Barkov, the Panthers captain. “Right now, it’s just all about keep playing that way and keep building every game.”

NOTES: Barkov became the sixth player in Panthers history to score three goals in a single period and just the second skater with as many in the first, joining Steven Reinprecht (Oct. 30, 2009). His power-play goal made him Florida’s all-time leader in that category with 67, passing Scott Mellanby. … Montour had three assists. … Panthers defensemen Aaron Ekblad (plus-3 in 23:24 of ice time) and Radko Gudas (four hits in 18:07) each returned from injury. … Florida forward Anton Levtchi played 9:41 in his NHL debut. … Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher returned after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury. He had three shots on goal and 17 penalty minutes in 13:41. … Montreal defenseman Kaiden Guhle left the ice late in the third period with an apparent leg injury after getting tangled with Barkov behind the net. St. Louis did not have an update.

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