SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Two days after being named MVP of the NHL All-Star Game on home ice, Matthew Tkachuk had a five-point night with two goals as the Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-1 on Monday night.
Tkachuk, who was also named NHL First Star of the Week for his All-Star performance, had a hand in the first three goals for the Panthers.
“I’m tired now,” Tkachuk said. “It is definitely a long weekend. I know people think it’s fun and stuff, but there is a lot going on. I had an unreal time this weekend and there’s nothing better than coming back, seeing the guys … and we’re really looking forward to a good home stretch to end the year.”
His five-point night also made him the fifth player in the NHL to hit 70 points this season as he surpassed Jonathan Huberdeau for most points in franchise history through the first 50 games of a season.
Huberdeau had 70 in 50 last season — and then was traded to Calgary for Tkachuk.
Both teams were coming off their All-Star break with Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky looking sharp with 32 saves after being out since Jan. 19 after he was hurt in Montreal.
“It is nice to have a big-number win like that to feel good,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “We had an emotional win against Boston and couldn’t build off it because everyone left town. To come back and bookend it with a win, that’s a positive direction.’’
Aside from Tkachuk, Florida also got a pair of goals from former Tampa Bay forward Carter Verhaeghe as well as goals from Sam Bennett, Eetu Luostarinen and Eric Staal in the win. Andrei Vasilevskiy had 42 saves for Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay made it a 2-1 game 3:02 into the second on a goal from All-Star Nikita Kucherov.
Florida opened the scoring in the third meeting between the two in-state rivals at 8:04 of the first when Verhaeghe cashed in on a nice feed from Tkachuk.
Bennett gave Florida a two-goal lead 1:42 into the second as he found himself all alone in front of Vasilevskiy and took a pass from Tkachuk who was behind the net. The Panthers scored two more before the end of the period.
Tkachuk scored on a incredible shot in which he pulled down a rebound from a Verhaeghe shot out of the air with his stick — then batted it past Vasilevskiy.
“You just don’t see that,” Maurice said. “I have a pretty good understanding of Matthew as a player because he scored a lot of goals against us (in Winnipeg). But you have to see it every day before you get a true understanding of what he can do with pucks in midair. He is an elite, elite talent.”
The Panthers opened the scoring in the third period to turn this one into a rout as Staal scored at 2:53, with Verhaeghe getting his second just under three minutes later.
Tkachuk got his second of the night with 6:37 left.
“I don’t want to say we’re still on vacation, but their will to win was a little bit stronger than ours,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “They seemed to be OK and we were not. I think it was too easy a night for them in our own zone and that result happened.”
NOTES: Florida was without captain Aleksander Barkov for the second half of the game Monday night after he appeared to get struck in the hand area with a shot. Barkov, who joined Tkachuk at the All-Star Game, left with 8:04 remaining in the second period. Barkov’s career-high 11-game scoring streak ended as fifth-longest in franchise history. Maurice said Barkov would likely not practice Tuesday but could return Thursday against San Jose. … The Panthers sent goalie Alex Lyon back to their AHL team in Charlotte after he played in all six of their games leading into the All-Star break. Florida activated Bobrovsky off injured reserve.
Tampa Bay: Hosts San Jose on Tuesday night.
Florida: Hosts San Jose on Thursday night.
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