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5 Takeaways: Barkov Nets 1st Hat Trick as Panthers Top Leafs in OT

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

12/15/18 Post Game Interviews

12/15/18 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Bob Boughner, Aleksander Barkov, Henrik Borgstrom and Jayce Hawryluk

  • 01:10 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - There's nothing like hockey heroics around the holidays.

With two goals already in his back pocket, Aleksander Barkov completed his first career hat trick at 3:24 of the overtime period to help the Florida Panthers snap out of a four-game slide with a confidence-boosting 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night at BB&T Center.

"I still can't believe it," Barkov said of his hat-trick performance. "It's been like 10 years since my last hat trick and I kind of forgot how it feels. Maybe I will realize later what happened."

Video: TOR@FLA: Barkov finishes first NHL hatty in overtime

With the Panthers leading 2-0 after two periods, John Tavares sparked Toronto's comeback in the third, tipping a shot from Jake Gardiner past Roberto Luongo to make it 2-1 at 10:24. From there, Mitch Marner would go on to even things up and make it 2-2 with a wrist shot at 16:21.

That's when things got really crazy.

Just 17 seconds after the Leafs tied the game, the Panthers marched right back down the ice and scored, with Barkov beating Frederick Andersen with a wrist shot from the slot after a nice feed from Troy Brouwer to put Florida back up 3-2 at 16:48. But, at 18:20, Marner tied it 3-3.

Then in overtime, Barkov took a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau before deking to his backhand and slipping the puck past Anderson to secure a big two points and send a flurry of rubber rats and Panthers hats flying onto the ice in a celebration that felt several games in the making.

"We've been talking a lot about playing a hard 60 minutes and I feel like we really did," Barkov said. "Of course they tied a couple of times at the end, but we showed our character and we came back and scored a couple more goals and won the game against a pretty good team."

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

1. NOT A SECOND TO SPARE

Barkov beat the clock to break the ice on Saturday night.

Sent to the power play in the waning minutes of the first period after the Leafs were whistled for too many men, the Panthers wasted no time in capitalizing on their man advantage, as Evgenii Dadonov set up Barkov with a pass through the slot to put Florida up 1-0 with 2.5 seconds left.

With the goal, the Panthers have now scored on the power play in 19 of their last 22 games.

Video: TOR@FLA: Barkov lifts home power-play goal

"A couple of times we beat pretty good teams and the next games haven't been that good, so we need to make sure that next game we're going to come hard and play the same way we played against Toronto," Barkov said of the road ahead for the Panthers.

In addition to his three goals, Barkov also racked up four takeaways against the Leafs to move into a tie with Ottawa's Mark Stone for the league lead. Entering the night as the NHL's leader in ice time among forwards, the 23-year-old center skated a game-high 27:42 on Saturday.

"They're probably one of the best teams in the league right now, a really good offense, good defense, good goalie, and we won," said Barkov who now has 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists over his last 20 games. "We need to build on this and should feel confident right now."

2. JONNY ROCKET

There's no question about it: Huberdeau has never looked better.

The Panthers scoring leader padded his impressive point total on Saturday night, scoring on the power play with an absolute rocket of a wrist shot from the left circle to extend the lead to 2-0 at 8:03 of the second period -- his ninth goal of the season and fourth in his last seven games.

Video: TOR@FLA: Huberdeau snipes PPG past Andersen

"It was tough, but I thought we played well," Huberdeau said of the win. "The whole game the compete level was high, and it's clear that's a good team on the other side. We had two nice goals and we did make some defensive mistakes at the end, but this is the way we need to play, 60 minutes. This is one of the best teams in the league, so it's just good to get a win."

Since Nov. 24, Huberdeau leads the NHL with 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) over 11 games. In that span, he's registered multiple points in nine of 11 games. Through 31 games this season, the 25-year-old forward leads the Panthers with 38 points (nine goals, 29 assists).

That sounds pretty deserving of an All-Star vote doesn't it?

To send your favorite Panthers to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, click HERE.

3. A BIG FOUR MINUTES

This was probably the biggest penalty kill of the season.

With a chance to cut into Florida's 2-0 lead, the Leafs were sent to a four-minute power play at 11:56 of the second period after MacKenzie Weegar was flagged for cross checking. But on the ensuing kill, the Panthers stood tall, barely giving Toronto's eighth-ranked power play an inch.

"I feel like that kind of dictated the pace of the game," said Panthers center Jared McCann, who finished with 2:36 of shorthanded ice time. "We competed all night, blocking shots and doing the little things that we talked about in video and things like that. Tonight, it came through for us."

After that, the Panthers penalty kill went on to finish the game a perfect 4-for-4.

Dating back to Nov. 23, the Panthers have been doing some of their best work on the penalty kill as of late, going 28-for-32 (87.5 percent) when down a man over their last 12 games. Against the Leafs, Aaron Ekblad led the way with 5:14 of shorthanded ice time.

A team effort, nine different Panthers registered at least one minute on the PK on Saturday.

4. HITS FOR HAWRYLUK

Jayce Hawryluk came into his first NHL game like a wrecking ball.

The 22-year-old forward was flying all over the ice during the first period, racking up a game-high three hits through one period. In his first taste of NHL action, the former second-round pick finished with four hits and two shots in 5:55 of ice time, which earned praise from Boughner.

"Hawryluk played great," he said.

After spending parts of the past three seasons battling injuries with Florida's AHL affiliate in Springfield, Hawryluk was playing some of the best hockey of his career before earning his first NHL call-up on Saturday, leading the Thunderbirds with 28 points (seven goal, 21 assists).

Now that he's finally here, Hawryluk said the goal is to stick around for as long as he can.

"It's a special night," Hawryluk said of his debut. "Happy to get the win. Just looking forward to the road ahead and getting many more wins with the team… it's going to be a special one I'll never forget."

5. BORGSTROM'S BACK

Like Hawryluk, Borgstrom made the most of his first NHL game of the season.

The 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Borgstrom scored one goal in four games with the Panthers after signing his entry-level contract near the end of last season, but had spent the first quarter of this season fine-tuning his game with the club's minor-league affiliate in Springfield.

Recalled on Saturday with Hawryluk, the 21-year-old center saw 12:18 of ice time against the Leafs, notching one shot and two takeaways, while also dishing out a few passes that gave fans a glimpse of his immense offensive potential. Of those minutes, 1:18 came on the power play.

"I feel like I played better today," said Borgstrom, who had accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) with the Thunderbirds prior to his call-up. "Defensively I was pretty reliable. The game went well for me, and luckily we got the win."

Interestingly, the more impressive part of Borgstrom's night came in the faceoff circle, where the flashy Finn went 8-for-12 (67 percent) against one of the NHL's deepest teams down the middle.

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