Forget the All-Star break, Jussi Jokinen wants to keep on playing.
“I think tonight maybe was the best I felt all season,” said Jokinen, who scored a goal and assisted on another Tuesday night to help the Florida Panthers beat Toronto 5-1.
“So I’m a little disappointed we’re going to have the break right now, because I feel my body’s coming along here.”
With 12:20 to go in the second period, Jokinen received a pass from Vincent Trocheck on the break and fed it right back to him. Toronto goalkeeper James Reimer had no chance as Trocheck guided the puck in for an easy score. The assist, Jokinen’s 21st of the season, helped the Panthers grab a 3-1 lead.
Then, with 5:47 to play in the period, Reilly Smith found Jokinen, who drove the puck top shelf past Reimer for his ninth goal of the season and a 4-1 advantage.
With the shot, Jokinen guaranteed a better output than his 2014-15 season, in which he scored eight goals in 81 games. He said Tuesday he has looked to shoot more this season and that a more consistent line has helped him find a rhythm.
Jokinen’s performance Tuesday marked his third straight game with a point, as he also recorded assists against Chicago and Tampa Bay. And as the Panthers head into the All-Star break, Jokinen is well on his way to surpass his desired 20-goal season.
Coach Gerard Gallant said afterward he didn’t know the extent of Jokinen’s talent before he got a chance to coach him. Now, Gallant said he sees it’s Jokinen’s intelligence and ability to thrive on the power play and penalty kill that makes him so valuable to the team.
“He’s got good numbers this year,” Gallant said, “but it’s just what he does every shift. Just the little things, and he makes the right plays, and he makes the right decisions all the time.”
Twenty-year-old Sasha Barkov, who scored a goal Tuesday in the wake of his contract extension, also cited Jokinen’s leadership and flexibility to play at different spots.
And heading into the All-Star break, Barkov sees no signs of slowing down for the 32-year-old.
“He’s forever young,” Barkov said.