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Barkov stars in return, Panthers defeat Coyotes

Center had missed six games with upper-body injury

NHL.com @NHL

Aleksander Barkov made an immediate impact in his return from an upper-body injury by scoring two goals to help the Florida Panthers hold off the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 at BB&T Center on Thursday.

Barkov's power-play goal midway through the second period broke a 1-1 tie, and he scored again four minutes into the third period. Barkov was injured on Feb. 8 against the Detroit Red Wings and missed the next six games.

"It's so boring when you're not playing,'' Barkov said, according to the Sun Sentinel. "The best thing in hockey is when you win the games and just the feeling after in the locker room."

Roberto Luongo made 22 saves and Vincent Trocheck scored for the Atlantic Division-leading Panthers (35-18-7), who lead the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins by five points. Luongo's best save came when he got his pad on a point-blank shot by Antoine Vermette with 30 seconds remaining.

Video: ARI@FLA: Jagr feeds Barkov for slam-dunk in 3rd

The Panthers finished 3-2-1 on a six-game homestand. They begin a five-game road trip at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"This was must-win for us, no question about it," forward Jaromir Jagr said, according to the Miami Herald. "We have a lot of tough teams coming up in a tight schedule. We have to keep winning because everyone else keep winning. That's the way it is."

Shane Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson had goals, and Louis Domingue finished with 22 saves for Arizona (27-28-6), which lost its fourth straight and is 0-3-0 on a five-game road trip that continues Saturday at the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We're not executing well enough, and that's with and without the puck … to allow us to generate more offense," Arizona coach Dave Tippett told the Coyotes website. "If we keep giving up three goals a night it's tough to win."

Video: ARIFLA: Barkov chips home go-ahead goal on PP

Doan gave the Coyotes the lead 7:02 into the game. The Coyotes' captain took a wrist shot from above the top of the right circle that hit Luongo's stick, then went off his blocker and into the net. It was the team-high 23rd of the season for Doan, who played in his 1,446th NHL game, tying Hall of Fame defenseman Tim Horton for 24th all-time.

Trocheck got the Panthers even at 12:04. He got open in the slot, took a pass from defenseman Brian Campbell and beat Domingue from between the circles for his 18th of the season. The assist was the 400th of Campbell's NHL career.

The Panthers drew two power plays in the first half of the second period and capitalized on the second one to take the lead.

With Ekman-Larsson off for hooking, Nick Bjugstad took a shot from the left circle that was stopped by Domingue. But Barkov found the rebound in the skates of Arizona defenseman Zbynek Michalek and poked it home at 10:18 for a 2-1 lead.

Video: ARI@FLA: Ekman-Larsson launches slap shot for PPG

"We needed [Barkov] tonight,'' Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said, according to the Sun Sentinel. "It was a funny game. Not a lot of whistles, a lot of dead play and not an exciting game, but we're happy to get the two points."

Barkov made it 3-1 early in the third period. Jagr set him up with a pass out into the crease, and the 20-year-old snapped a shot past Domingue for his career-high 18th goal and sixth in his past six games.

"He sees everything on the ice," Barkov told Fox Sports Florida when asked about playing with Jagr. "You go to the net and put your stick down and he'll find you."

The assist was Jagr's team-high 44th point in 57 games this season. He has 26 goals and 62 points in 77 games with Florida since being acquired from the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 26, 2015, one year ago Friday. At 44, Jagr is the oldest player in NHL history to have more than 43 points in a season.

Video: ARI@FLA: Ekman-Larsson launches slap shot for PPG

Ekman-Larsson scored his 18th goal of the season and 12th on the power play when he one-timed Vermette's pass behind Luongo at 14:17.

"It's frustrating but we just have to keep battling and keep pushing," Ekman-Larsson said. "We'll just try to focus on the next game."

Video: Barkov, Luongo lead Panthers over Coyotes

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