Miami Herald

A sigh of relief as Barkov ends 18-game stretch without a goal

- BY JORDAN MCPHERSON jmcpherson@miamiheral­

Aleksander Barkov was never really worried. Neither was his coach.

But there was still a sigh of relief when the captain’s wrist shot got past a sprawling Alexandar Georgiev midway through the third period of the Panthers’ 4-0 shutout of the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday in Sunrise.

“It feels good,” Barkov said. “It’s been a while.”

Nearly two months if we want to get specific.

Barkov’s last goal prior to Saturday came Dec.

16. He went a stretch of 18 games (not including the three he missed due to an unspecifie­d lowerbody injury) without finding the back of the net.

The Panthers, though, weren’t too concerned, especially since Barkov was making his presence felt despite his lack of goals.

In the 18-game run without a goal, Barkov still produced 19 assists — tied for the sixth-most in the NHL during that stretch — and was his usual dominant defensive self. According to the advanced hockey statistics website Natural Stat Trick, the Panthers controlled 58.06 percent of shot attempts when Barkov was on the ice for 5-on-5 play during those 18 games and allowed only eight goals at full strength.

Of his 19 assists, an astonishin­g 13 went to Sam Reinhart, with eight of those 13 coming on the power play and another coming shorthande­d. The other six: one apiece to Gustav Forsling, Aaron Ekblad, Evan Rodrigues, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Carter Verhaeghe and Matthew Tkachuk.

”We’re good,” coach Paul Maurice said after practice Friday. “Everybody’s happy. I don’t need Barkov scoring; I need the line outperform­ing the line they play against. I don’t care if it’s all going to be in Reinhart’s bucket. It’s good to be his agent.”

On Saturday, Barkov assisted on both of Florida’s power-play goals by Tkachuk and Reinhart in the first period before scoring his goal. It was Barkov’s team-leading sixth game with at least three points this season and the 50th overall of his career, surpassing Jonathan Huberdeau for the franchise record.

“It’s just all about us working hard. We’re trying to shoot the puck,” Barkov said. “Obviously we have a great team here. It doesn’t matter who scores the goals. I know it’s been [Reinhart and Verhaeghe] scoring all the time, but it doesn’t matter who scores them as long as we win and we play the right way.”

Barkov now has 51 points on the season (including 12 goals). It’s his ninth consecutiv­e season with at least 50 points, tied with Olli Jokinen (2002-03 to 2011-12) for the secondmost 50-point seasons by a Finnish-born player, according to NHL Stats. Jari Kurri has the record with 10 (1980-81 to 1990-91).

Barkov’s goal was also the 255th of his career, tying Saku Koivu for the fourth-most all-time among Finnish-born NHLers. The three he trails: Teemu Selanne (684), Kurri (601) and Jokinen (321).


Tkachuk on Saturday logged multiple points for the third time in his past four games. Since December, Tkachuk leads the NHL with 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 20 games played. Tkachuk and Reinhart lead the NHL with 15 power-play points apiece over that span.

Reinhart’s powerplay goal Saturday was his 22nd of the season. Only four other active skaters have scored at least 22 power-play goals in a single season, per NHL stats: Alex Ovechkin (three times, most recently 25 in the 2014-15 season); Leon Draisaitl (twice, the last time 32 in the 2022-23 season); Chris Kreider (26 in the 2021-22 season) and Steven Stamkos (24 in the 2009-10 season).

Since Dec. 23, the Panthers are 15-3-2.

The 32 points lead all NHL teams, while the 15 wins and 12 regulation wins over that stretch are tied for the most in the league with the Edmonton Oilers. Florida has outscored opponents 74-46 in those 20 games.

Next up for the Panthers is a visit to Pittsburgh in a TNT game at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Jordan McPherson: 305-376-2129, @J_McPherson1­126

 ?? MATIAS J. OCNER mocner@miamiheral­ ?? Panthers center Aleksander Barkov scores against Alexandar Georgiev of the Avalanche in the third period of the Panthers’ 4-0 victory Saturday in Sunrise.
MATIAS J. OCNER mocner@miamiheral­ Panthers center Aleksander Barkov scores against Alexandar Georgiev of the Avalanche in the third period of the Panthers’ 4-0 victory Saturday in Sunrise.
 ?? ?? Aleksander Barkov
Aleksander Barkov

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