Sasha Barkov’s scoring drought ended at the perfect time for the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Barkov, who had not scored since the second game of the season against Detroit, popped one in during overtime to lift the Panthers to a 2-1 win as Florida won in what could be its final visit to fabled Joe Louis Arena.
The Panthers, who went 0 for 6 on the power play in regulation, have won the first three meetings between the teams this season and seven of the past eight at “The Joe.”
Florida is also 5-0 in games decided in the five-minute overtime session this season and 7-2 in all OT games.
“I don’t even remember the last time I scored, so of course it feels good,” said Barkov, whose goal drought ended at 22 games.
“The win feels even better, the feeling in the locker room after a game like that is just awesome.”
The victory was also the first for new interim coach Tom Rowe, and the Panthers have earned three of four points since he took over for Gerard Gallant on Sunday.
The Panthers made sure to grab the game-winning puck, and it’s expected to find its way to Rowe.
“It feels great,” Rowe said afterward. “No doubt this is the best league in the world with unbelievable players and coaches. Every win is a tough win, so you better enjoy them.”
Said Barkov: “It’s never good when you have a coaching change. We all loved [Gallant]; he’s a great coach. But that’s how teams go and you have to move on, concentrate on the next game. We have a great group of guys here and great coaches. We just need to stick together moving forward.”
Florida’s new-look power play didn’t score Thursday but had plenty of chances, including late in the first, but Vincent Trocheck’s game-tying goal was overturned as Jason Demers was shown on video to be offside coming through the zone.
Demers made up for it minutes later, tying the score on a long shot from the right side that might have hit the skate of Detroit’s Danny DeKeyser and gone past goalie Petr Mrazek on a 4-on-4 chance with 1:41 left in the first.
The game-tying goal got Demers the “Vinnie’s Barber Shop” cape handed out following victories. Since Barkov got it following Saturday’s win over the Blue Jackets, it was his turn to hand it out.
Barkov at first tried to give it to goalie Roberto Luongo after he made 20 saves, including one huge one before Barkov scored.
Luongo declined since he was the first recipient of it last month.
“I thought we played a pretty complete game,” Demers said. “They’re a good team, and we skated with them. In overtime, we capitalized on our chances.”
Detroit opened the scoring early as Florida struggled to clear the puck deep in its zone. Aaron Ekblad got the puck in the corner and tried a blind, behind-the-back, between-the-legs pass to an unsuspecting Barkov.
The puck clipped Barkov’s stick and went right to Henrik Zetterberg, who backhanded a shot past Luongo for the 1-0 lead.
“It’s probably a little too risky,” Rowe said of the play, “but we don’t want to take the creativity away from our players. We want them to make plays.”