A record-setting performance by the captain … the first-ever win for a rookie NHL goalie … and an abundance of goals from a pair of defensemen — there was a lot for Florida Panthers fans to cheer on Friday night.
Indeed, Aleksander Barkov set a franchise record with five assists, and defensemen MacKenzie Weegar and Mike Matheson scored twice each to lead the host Panthers to a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.
Panthers rookie goalie Sam Montembeault, making just his second NHL start, stopped 25 shots for his first win.
Meanwhile, Barkov leads the Panthers with 74 points, and Matheson is a productive defenseman with 24 goals in his three years in the league.
But Weegar, who had just returned after having missed four consecutive games due to a lower-body injury, had entered this game with just three career goals in 112 games. His two first-period goals proved to be a positive omen for Florida.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman also scored for the Panthers. Huberdeau, who added three assists, has set a career high with 71 points, and Hoffman tops the team with a career-high 31 goals.
Florida’s top line — Barkov, Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov — combined for 12 points.
Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk, who on Thursday shut out the best team in hockey, the Tampa Bay Lightning, lasted just one period, making four saves while allowing three goals.
Florida opened the scoring just 61 seconds into the game as Barkov, operating from behind the net, fed Huberdeau on the doorstep.
Weegar followed with his two goals in succession, including the first one that went in off Wild defenseman Ryan Suter’s backside.
Florida took a 4-0 lead with 3:34 expired in the second period as Hoffman took a pass from Barkov and drilled a one-timer for his team-best 14th power-play goal of the season.
There were three more goals in the second period, with goals coming from – in order —Minnesota’s J.T. Brown on a deflection, Florida’s Matheson on a wrist shot and the Wild’s Marcus Foligno on a tap-in.
Matheson’s second goal — which occurred with 9:37 left in the third period — came on a wrap-around.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad had a goal taken away from him in Friday’s opening period. He made a nice move to evade a defender and then scored with a backhander, but the Wild appealed, and the goal was nullified due to offsides.
In addition, Barkov nearly scored in the second period. But his would-be goal went into the net a split-second after the period ended.
▪ The Panthers signed 18-year-old forward Serron Noel — their second-round pick in 2018 –— to a three-year contract. Noel, the 34th overall selection, is a 6-5, 210-pounder and the son of former Canadian Football League running back Dean Noel.