Panthers blow big early lead; Jets storm back to win in OT

Photo: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

It was a game of huge momentum swings, with plenty of highs and lows all very similar to the season the Florida Panthers have faced so far. In the end, however, the result was something we've all come accustomed to as of late: an overtime loss and a single point earned. The Florida Panthers jumped out to a strong early lead against the Winnipeg Jets and looked to have the game in hand, but let their playoff clinching second point slip away as the Jets managed to storm back and win the game in overtime by a score of 5-4. Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd would beat Jose Theodore with a little over a minute remaining in the extra frame, ruining the Panthers chance to clinch their first postseason berth in over a decade and walk away with the Southeast Division title. The Panthers now have only two games remaining and must gain at least one point in either of those games. The Cats sure aren't making it easy on themselves.

Additional coverage at Arctic Ice Hockey and SB Nation Florida



Scoring Summary

1st

2nd
3rd
OT
  • Andrew Ladd (27) 3:12, assisted by Blake Wheeler

Observations

  • The Panthers jumped out to to an early 3-0 lead thanks to a big first period and an early goal in the second. It looked as though the Panthers would run away with the game, but after they built that 3-0 lead, they just stopped working hard and winning battles. That was all the Jets would need to get back into the game, and before you knew it, the Panthers were down a goal midway through the third period. There was no excuse for the sudden shutdown of the Panther lineup; if you can't play a full 60 minutes for a game as big as this, you really have to wonder about the postseason successes this team will be able to muster.
  • Both teams started out pretty slow and tentative, but you could see the momentum start to really shift in the Panthers favor as the play continued in the first period. Florida would get on the board first due to some hard work and traffic in front of Ondrej Pavelec, and score again with even more traffic in front. As we've said all season, as long as the Cats do the simple things, they're very effective, and they proved it again in this game.
  • As much as the Panthers dominated the first period, the Jets started to dominate the second. They were able to start keeping Florida on the outside in their zone, and took advantage of some Florida mistakes to score two in the period. Kane reached the 30 goal plateau for the first time in his career, and is continuing to mature into a top power forward for the Jets. At least the Don Waddell administration did something right.
  • Not like it's a big secret at this point, but Weiss really wanted to win this game. He showed it with his play, throwing big hits, chasing down every loose puck he could find with the tenacity of a man possessed, and making plays whenever he had the chance. Happy birthday Mr. Weiss; too bad you didn't get the present you wanted.
  • Theodore has been a little shaky his last few starts, letting up an occasional weak goal in some of those games. Hopefully he's able to remedy that before the playoffs get started. The Panthers will need him to be at his best, and if he's not, don't be surprised to see head coach Kevin Dineen turn to Scott Clemmensen, who has been fantastic as of late.
  • Versteeg might be feeling a little better, as he certainly is playing like it the last two games. He was a threat to make a play every time he had the puck on his stick, and as usual he potted a goal against his favorite opponent this season. It would be incredibly helpful for Florida's postseason experience if Verbeauty was restored to his original luster. Gotta cut out the dangerous passes though; one of those led to the first Jets goal.
  • Marcel Goc had a great game, and his linemates as well. Goc has been a bit of a ghost (vampire?) as of late, turning in some questionable efforts that had many of us thinking he was playing hurt. He bounced back in a big way with a very solid two-way game. The Panthers are going to need Goc to be a consistent contributor every game when the postseason rolls around.
  • Scottie Upshall looked very good again. Since he's returned from his last injury, he just keeps improving and finding a groove with his linemates. He had several great scoring chances and set up a couple as well, but couldn't finish them off. The Panthers have a lot of those types of players, don't they?
First Star
Stephen Weiss. He didn't get the win, he didn't score a point, but his spirited play led the Panthers. Honorable mention to Kopecky as well for scoring the game-tying goal on a wicked wrister.

Worst Star
Jose Theodore. He hasn't been the worst star much this season, but his weak goal early in the third vs. Ladd was the difference in this one.

Up Next
One more point. That's all they need. There's only two games left to get it, and the next one is probably the biggest game Florida will play all season: a huge matchup against the Washington Capitals, a team that now sits four points behind the Panthers and still holds the tie-breaker for the division crown. The Panthers are going to have to really bring their effort for a full 60 minutes to DC, as the Capitals are going to be putting forth likely their most workman-like effort of the season on Thursday night. We'll see you there.

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