Panthers start fast, rout Red Wings 6-1

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Panthers coach Bob Boughner is impressed with Aleksander Barkov.

Boughner thinks the center has raised his play to a new level.

Barkov reached 30 goals for the first time in his career, helping the Panthers rout the Detroit Red Wings 6-1 on Sunday.

“The first few years you feel your way around the league,” Boughner said. “It’s a learning process on how to be a pro and how to be consistent.

“Barky’s mastered that. Now he’s elite. He’s an elite hockey player.”

The 23-year-old Barkov had at least 21 goals in each of the previous three seasons, but he had never got to 30 until he made it 6-1 7:44 into the third period. He also picked up his 47th assist when Jonathan Huberdeau scored the first of Florida’s three third-period goals.

Barkov has 24 points in his last 13 games. It was the 400th NHL game for Florida’s captain, who had a club-record five assists Friday against Minnesota.

“That means I’m playing with really good players who can pass the puck. I just try to find the open spot and try to work with my shot too,” Barkov said.

Josh Brown and Dryden Hunt each scored their first NHL goal as Florida earned its second straight win since a costly six-game slide. Jamie McGinn and Frank Vatrano also scored.

Making his third NHL start, Sam Montembeault stopped 19 shots as the Panthers finished their season series against the Red Wings with a 3-0-1 record.

The 22-year-old Montembeault had his best moment in the first period, denying Andreas Athanasiou on a breakaway at 10:25.

“When he tried to make his move, he kind of juggled the puck a little bit, so I just tried to poke-check it, and he just tapped it on net and I made a pad save,” Montembeault said.

Brown, Hunt and Montembeault all started the season at Springfield in the American Hockey League.

“That’s what makes it so special,” Hunt said. “We all kind of grinded it out in Springfield.”

Thomas Vanek had a power-play goal for Detroit, which dropped to 1-7-3 in its past 11 games. Jimmy Howard had 37 saves.

The Panthers scored twice in their first nine shots during an impressive first period.

Troy Brouwer held the puck on a rush, skated in backward below the goal line and fired a slick pass back to Brown, trailing in the high slot. The defenseman then beat Howard on the glove side at 6:42.

McGinn scored just 13 seconds into a power play when he shoved in a rebound of Aaron Ekblad’s blast from the left circle for his third goal at 9:22.

Vatrano kept a puck alive in a board battle in the second period, and Mike Hoffman slid a pass around to Ekblad, who fired a shot that Vatrano deflected in for his 21st goal and first in 12 games.

Vanek cut the deficit to 3-1 with his 14th goal at 12:24, converting a one-timer from the left circle off a pass from Frans Nielsen.

“They just had Grade A chance after Grade A chance. Pretty fun night for them, pretty awful for us,” Vanek said.

“We weren’t skating or mentally sharp and made them look like an All-Star team over there.”

Opening the third period on the power play, Florida went up 4-1 when Evgenii Dadonov threaded a pass on Huberdeau’s 22nd goal, and Hunt made it 5-1 when he scored off a clever pass from Riley Sheahan at 2:51.

NOTES: Detroit C Dylan Larkin (back) missed his third straight game. The 22-year-old Larkin, who has a team-best 27 goals and 35 assists, will be re-evaluated on Monday and is expected to return this season. … Brown’s first NHL goal came in his 24th game, Hunt in his 33rd.

UP NEXT

Red Wings: At Montreal on Tuesday.

Panthers: At San Jose on Thursday.

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