SUNRISE (CBSMiami/AP) — If the Florida Panthers are going to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race, they’ll need efforts like this from their top players.READ MORE: FIU President Mark Rosenberg Resigns, Cites Health Issues
Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov finished off the Toronto Maple Leafs with his first NHL hat trick.
Barkov scored at 3:24 of overtime to complete the hat trick and give Florida a 4-3 victory over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Barkov became the first player in Panthers franchise history to complete a hat trick with an overtime goal. He slipped the puck past goalie Frederik Andersen with a backhanded shot from the right side of the crease.
“I still probably can’t believe it’s been like 10 years (in Europe) since my last hat trick and I kind of forgot how it feels,” Barkov said. “Maybe I will realize later what happened.”
Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and an assist, and Roberto Luongo made 29 saves to help the Panthers snap a four-game skid.
“I hate looking at the game sheet and seeing the minutes he (Barkov) plays but we’re in a situation where we don’t have a choice sometimes,” coach Bob Boughner said. “He was our best player tonight and the best player on the ice.”
Mitchell Marner scored twice for Toronto, John Tavares added his team-high 20th goal and Andersen stopped 28 shots. The Maple Leafs have lost four of their past five.
“Obviously, Barkov was the best player on the ice by 10 miles,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “Their team was desperate, they hadn’t won in a while, and our desperation didn’t match their skill level.”READ MORE: Armed Robbery In Medley Leads Investigators To Human Trafficking Arrests
The Maple Leafs tied it at 3 with 1:39 left in regulation on Marner’s second goal. His shot from the right circle beat the screened Luongo.
Toronto closed to 2-1 when Tavares tipped in a shot from the point by Jake Gardiner with 9:36 left in the third. Marner tied it with 3:39 left in the third, beating Luongo on the glove side from the right circle.
“We needed to get the pucks in more and challenge their ‘D’ a little bit,” Marner said. “I think we did that in the third and that’s why we were successful.”
The Panthers reclaimed the lead 27 seconds later on Barkov’s second goal. He fired a shot from the slot that got past Andersen.
“He (Barkov) probably doesn’t get enough recognition around the league for how good he is,” Tavares said. “He’s a really steady, smart two-way guy. He’s strong, big, smooth and reads the play well. He’s got great poise and a guy you have to be aware of out there.”
NOTES: The Panthers have scored at least one power-play goal in 19 of their past 22 games. .. Florida recalled forwards Henrik Borgstrom and Jayce Hawryluk from Springfield of the AHL on Saturday. The Panthers also loaned forwards Anthony Greco and Dryden Hunt to Springfield. … Florida C Nick Bjugstad missed his fourth game with an upper-body injury, but did participate in the morning skate. … Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman was back in the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for his hit on Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy.
Maple Leafs: At New Jersey on Tuesday night.
Panthers: At Buffalo on Tuesday night.MORE NEWS: Heat's Late Game Rally Not Enough As Hawks Pull Away 110-108
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