Barkov, Panthers flying high as Hurricanes visit
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The Florida Panthers have won three straight games, and they have done it with some spectacular goals.
At the top of the list is the between-the-legs trick shot scored by Aleksander Barkov on Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens. Second-place during the stretch belongs to Jonathan Huberdeau, who faked out at least two if not three or four members of the Buffalo Sabres in Tuesday's 4-2 victory.
Barkov, always modest, had this to say: "I think (Huberdeau's goal) was nicer than mine. Beating three of their guys and their goalie, too, and he had a better celebration than mine."
On Thursday, the Panthers (26-24-8, 60 points) will get a chance to extend their win streak and their run of great goals when they host the Carolina Hurricanes (31-23-6, 68), a team they are chasing in the Eastern Conference.
Neither team is in playoff position at the moment, and Carolina's 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers was costly.
Still, the Hurricanes are playing well, winning six of their past eight games. In fact, since Dec. 31, the Hurricanes are 16-6-1, and Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour was upbeat after his team's narrow loss to the Rangers.
"That was the best game we've played in the past seven or eight," he said. "It didn't work out, but if we play with that mindset and play that hard, I think we will be where we want to be at the end of the season."
The Hurricanes have outshot their opponent in 120 out of 180 periods in regulation this season.
In addition, Carolina goalies Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek have been brilliant, posting a 1.17 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage over the past six games.
Florida goalie James Reimer has been hot lately, too, winning three straight games. During that stretch, he has stopped 101 out of 108 shots.
Panthers starting goalie Roberto Luongo, who was on the bereavement list for the Montreal game, has returned to the team and could be in between the pipes against Carolina.
Offensively, the Panthers got eight points on Tuesday from their top line of Barkov, Huberdeau and Frank Vatrano.
"They were great," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said after his top line helped subdue the Sabres.
By himself, Barkov has seven points in the past two games. He leads the Panthers with 60 points this season, and he is among the NHL's best in the margin between penalties drawn and penalties taken.
It's also interesting to note that the last time the Panthers had five 20-goal scorers was in 2015-2016. They have four 20-goal scorers already this season, and Huberdeau (15 goals, including two on Tuesday) could get there with a hot finish.
The Panthers, though, lost top-four defenseman Mike Matheson to a lower-body injury on Tuesday. His status for Thursday has not yet been determined.
"He eats minutes," Boughner said of Matheson. "He's been playing his best hockey in the second half of the season. You can't replace a guy like 'Matty.' We have to support him until he gets back."
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have been without standout center Jordan Staal, who scored four goals in Carolina's first five games this season but has been out since Dec. 22 due to a concussion. He appears to have a shot at returning Thursday, though his status remains unclear.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 20, 2019
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Published: 2015-05-28 13:51:00
Updated: 2016-07-13 10:41:59
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