Sasha Barkov hasn’t scored a goal that counts for real since the first weekend of the season.
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t helped the Panthers by putting the puck in the back of the net.
On Saturday night, Barkov scored his second shootout goal in a week to help Florida beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 at BB&T Center.
Shootout goals, much to Barkov’s chagrin, don’t count on the stat sheet.
“Of course I want to score in the first 60 minutes, but if that’s the only way I can score, well, I’ll take it,” said Barkov, wearing the ‘Vinnie’s Barber Shop’ cape which goes to the game MVP after victories.
“It was a big win for us. If you can help win a game for your team, you will do anything for that.”
Goalie Roberto Luongo was the first receipient of the cape earlier this month but could have demanded a return of it on Saturday.
Not only did Luongo make 36 saves in the first 65 minutes of his duel with Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (22 saves), but he stopped all three Columbus offerings in the shootout.
Florida beat the host Rangers in a shootout on Sunday night and are now 6-1 in games decided by overtime or shootout.
“We’re a confident group that if it gets to overtime, we’ll get the job done,” Luongo said.
“Whether it’s 3-on-3 or the shootout, we have had some success. I thought we carried the play in overtime, didn’t bury some chances. But we got the job done in the shootout.”
For the second time in a week, Jaromir Jagr got the Panthers on the board first as he scored late in the opening period.
That goal held up as a goalie battle broke out as expected between Luongo and Bobrovsky — the latter stopping Derek MacKenzie on a second-period short-handed breakaway which would have opened things up.
With 7:10 left, however, Brandon Saad shoveled a backhanded shot past Luongo from 20 feet out to tie the score.
Like Saad’s shot that beat Luongo, Bobrovsky probably wishes he had another shot at Jagr in the first.
Jagr got only his third goal of the season — but second in a week — as Florida collapsed the Columbus zone and took aim at Bobrovsky.
Shawn Thornton, playing for the third time in four games, took a shot from the top of the left circle.
Barkov pulled in the rebound, turned and found Jagr. Although the shot won’t head to the Hall of Fame as Jagr barely got a piece of the puck, it somehow trickled through Bobrovsky’s legs and into the net.
Barkov, who hasn’t scored a non-shootout goal in his past 19 games now, has seven assists in his past nine.
The Panthers kick off a six-game trip Sunday night at Carolina.
“We obviously need the points being where we are in the standings and that’s a real good team over there,” coach Gerard Gallant said as his team hustled to Fort Lauderdale airport for a late-night flight to Raleigh.