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5 Takeaways: Barkov Leads Panthers to Big Win Over Sabres in OT

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

11/30/18 Post Game Interviews

11/30/18 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Bob Boughner, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Jared McCann

  • 01:35 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Even the normally reserved Aleksander Barkov couldn't hide his emotions in the moment, pumping his fist emphatically after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to lead the Florida Panthers to a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at BB&T Center.

"It feels awesome," said Barkov, who potted the game winner 2:26 into the extra frame off a nice feed from Jonathan Huberdeau. "With what we've been through here, especially [during this] homestand, losing games in the last minute and stuff like that, this game was huge for us."

Video: BUF@FLA: Huberdeau sets up Barkov's overtime winner

After falling behind 1-0 after Jeff Skinner scored on a 2-on-1 break at 10:55 of the first period, Florida answered back with a power play goal from Jared McCann at 18:31. In the second, Sam Reinhart made it 2-1 on the power play, putting the Panthers in a hole going into the third.

Finishing the game with an 80-40 advantage over Buffalo in shot attempts, the Panthers were finally rewarded for their sustained pressure in the third, when Evgenii Dadonov was able to get one past Linus Ullmark on the power play with 8:04 left in regulation to force the extra frame.

Florida's 39 scoring chances were tied for the team's second-most this season.

"We played a good hockey game. I think that the thing I was happy about is that, being down 2-1, we didn't change what we were doing. We made it 2-2 and we kept our composure in the crucial minutes. We're a pretty good overtime team… that composure, just staying with in our structure, and just trying to wear teams down."

Boughner's biggest move of the game was likely his decision to reunite Huberdeau with Barkov on the team's top line and in overtime. The duo hasn't played regularly together since the first half of last season, but their chemistry, much to the team's delight, returned almost immediately.

"For sure we're going to use it again," Barkov said. "It's fun to play with that type of guy who thinks about the game the same way."

The Panthers (10-10-4) will host Tampa on Saturday.

Here are five takeaways from Friday's win in Sunrise…

1. McCANN'S THE MAN

The goals keep coming for McCann.

Trailing 1-0 late in the first period, the 22-year-old center broke the ice for the Panthers, blasting a one-timer from the right circle on the power play that bounced off a defenseman's stick and in to make it a 1-1 game at 18:31. McCann has now lit the lamp in three of his last four contests.

Video: BUF@FLA: McCann cranks one-timer by Ullmark for PPG

"Obviously there's some areas where I need to better in the defensive zone, but I felt like other than that my line created a lot of chances," said McCann, who spent most of the game playing with Dadonov and Dryden Hunt. "We were able to get one on the power play there, which was good."

In addition to his goals, McCann also drew two penalties -- a hook and a high stick - that led to a pair of power play goals. With five goals and four assists in 23 games, Boughner said that he believes McCann is starting to cement himself as the team's second-line center in the absence of Vincent Trocheck, who is out indefinitely after fracturing his right ankle in Ottawa on Nov. 19.

"He's a guy that's taken the most of his opportunity," Boughner said. "We talked about that. He's our second-line center, and on our second-unit power play he scored a goal tonight. He's taken a lot of important minutes right now, and I like the way he's responded. Great for him and great for our team."

2. DADONOV ON DUTY

As usual, Dadonov came up big for the Panthers on Friday night, cashing in a rebound on the power play from near the top of the crease to tie the game 2-2 at 11:56 of the third period. The goal was his fourth this season with the man advantage, which is tied for second on the team.

Video: BUF@FLA: Dadonov pots PPG on the rebound to tie game

The 29-year-old has now scored in each of his last two games, increasing his total to 11 on this season, which is second on the team to only Mike Hoffman's 12. Producing at a point-per-game clip, he has tallied 24 points in 24 games this season and is riding a four-game point streak.

Against the Sabres, Dadonov fired off a game-high seven shots on goal.

3. UNLIMITED POWER

Another game, another power play goal for the Panthers.

With two more tonight, the Cats have now registered at least one goal with the extra attacker in 14 of their last 15 games. Since Nov. 1, they own the second-ranked power play in the league, going a jaw-dropping 19-for-53 (36 percent) with the man advantage during that span.

"At this point, I don't way to say anything good about the power play," said a superstitious Barkov. "Just keep going and doing those things that we've been told to. Keep working on it and, of course, it's going to win us a lot of games if we play the same way."

So far this season, the Panthers are converting on the power play at an historic rate. With the seventh-ranked unit in the league, the team's 25.8-percent success rate currently stands as the best in franchise history, easily topping the 20.4 percent the team finished with back in 2012-13.

"Crucial goals at the right time," Boughner said of the power play. "It's been a big thing for us, especially because this week has been tight for 5-on-5 goals. Big goals."

On the power play, Keith Yandle leads the team in points (15), while Hoffman has the most goals (5).

4. HUBERDEAU'S HELPERS

Huberdeau couldn't hide his happiness when asked about being reunited with Barkov.

"I haven't been playing with Barky in a while, and it's fun to be back with him," said Huberdeau, who has shared the ice with Barkov for 1,459:48 of ice time over the past three seasons. "We'll see what's going to happen for next game. He's one of the best in the league."

In addition to setting up Barkov's game-winner with a beautiful pass through Reinhart's legs, Huberdeau also picked the primary assist on Dadonov's game-tying goal. The hottest Panther as of late, the 25-year-old winger has one goal and eight assists over his last four games.

Huberdeau leads the Panthers in points (26), while his 21 assists are tied for 11th in the league.

"I thought we played a good game tonight," he said.

5. HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER

The BB&T Center turned purple on Friday to celebrate Hockey Fights Cancer Night.

A culmination of the NHL's month-long initiative, the Panthers joined forces with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to raise awareness for cancer research in the pursuit of cures. In warm-ups players donned purple jerseys, and a survivorship choir sang the National Anthem.

The recipient of tonight's esteemed Community Champions Grant, which is presented by Moss Construction and the Moss Foundation, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Research Center was also awarded with a $25,000 donation from the Florida Panthers Foundation. 

Video: Community Champion 11/30/18

"I'm really delighted bout the partnership we have," said Dr. Carmen Calfa, a medical oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Care Center. "This is the third year, so we just hope to make it stronger and better every year. It feels like coming home. It feels like coming to a nice family where we care about each other. It really does."

A former patient of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, 17-year-old Sonia Rodriguez dropped the game's ceremonial first puck. Much to her surprise, Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov and Sabres captain Jack Eichel each also gifted her with their hockey sticks afterwards.

Video: BUF@FLA: Panthers honor HFC with ceremonial puck drop

Diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma this summer, Rodriguez has finished her treatment.

"That was shocking," Rodriguez said of receiving sticks from a pair of NHL superstars. "I was super excited. I wasn't expecting it. I had no idea they were going to do that. I was confused. I was like, 'Are you sure you're giving it to me?' They congratulated me and said it was really cool, the journey that I've been on."

If you'd like to bid on autographed warm-up jerseys from tonight, visit NHLAuctions.com.

 

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