The Panthers had 20/20 vision on Sunday, and things looked pretty good for them all night.
Both Aleksander Barkov and Frank Vatrano reached 20 goals for the season. And Barkov kept going, finishing with three goals — including one that was out of this world — and one assist as the Panthers defeated the visiting Montreal Canadiens 6-3 on Sunday night.
It was Barkov’s second career hat trick and his third four-point game.
That second Barkov goal, which came on a breakaway with 2:11 left in the second period, was sensational, and it gave Florida a 4-3 lead. Montreal defenseman Victor Mete tried to catch up, but Barkov was too fast and skilled, moving the puck forward and then back between his legs before lifting a backhander over Carey Price’s stick.
Barkov has 22 goals, reaching at least 20 for the fourth consecutive season, and he leads the Panthers with 57 points.
Frank Vatrano — who reached 20 goals for the first time — Denis Malgin (his seventh) and Riley Sheahan (No. 8) also scored for the Panthers.
Max Domi scored twice for Montreal — he has 19 this season — and the Canadiens also got a goal from Brendan Gallagher (his 23rd).
Tomas Tatar added two assists.
James Reimer made 28 saves to earn his second win in a row.
Montreal had some issues in its net. With 6:03 left in the first period, Canadiens coach Claude Julien pulled goalie Antti Niemi, who made just six saves and left trailing 3-1. Ironically, Niemi made a career-high 52 saves the last time he faced Florida, in a 5-1 Montreal win on Jan. 15.
This time, with Niemi out, Price entered for Montreal and made 24 saves, allowing two Barkov goals.
There were five goals scored in a wild first period.
Florida put the first number on the board with 3:59 gone in the first period. Seven seconds after Domi high-sticked Mike Hoffman, Barkov shoved home a rebound of a Keith Yandle shot, beating Niemi five-hole.
It was Barkov’s ninth power-play goal of the season.
The Panthers made it 2-0 on a wrist shot by Malgin that was deflected by a Montreal stick before it sailed over Niemi’s glove.
Montreal turned defense into offense as Tomas Tatar stole the puck from Hoffman and fed a charging Domi.
Niemi, though, got another bad break as Vatrano’s shot got past him after deflecting off the stick of Montreal defenseman Shea Weber.
Gallagher cut Montreal’s deficit to 3-2, scoring on an odd-man rush as the puck appeared to glance off of Reimer’s left shoulder.
Domi, with his second goal of the game, tied the score at 3-3 with 5:18 gone in the second period. Mike Reilly’s pass landed on the tape of a charging Domi, who chipped the puck past Reimer.
From there, however, Barkov took over, and Sheahan added an empty-netter with 2:25 left in the game.
THIS AND THAT
Panthers starting goalie Roberto Luongo was placed on bereavement leave. Rookie goalie Sam Montembault, 22, was recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League to serve as the backup goalie.
Montreal’s players showed a touch of class prior to the game, joining the Panthers on the ice to shake hands with families who this week were commemorating the one-year anniversary of the tragic shootings that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau appeared to score with 3:38 gone in the third period, which would’ve given Florida a 5-3 lead. However, Montreal appealed and got the goal wiped out because of an offsides infraction.
The Panthers closed the first period by killing off 25 seconds of a Montreal 5-on-3 power play. Montreal got just one shot during that two-man advantage, and it missed the net entirely.
Malgin, who has experienced a pair of 10-game scoring droughts this season, has two goals in his past four contests.
Florida had three healthy scratches: defenseman Bogdan Kiselevich and forwards Micheal Haley and Jamie McGinn.