In their last three outings, the Florida Panthers feasted on teams playing the second of back-to-back games. This time, it was the Cats who found themselves the prey as the Winnipeg Jets posted a 5-2 victory over tired Florida in front of a sellout crowd at the MTS Centre. Evander Kane, Jacob Trouba and former Panther Michael Frolik each had a goal and an assist to power the Jets to the easy win.
Despite getting the play taken to them in the early going, the Panthers took a 1-0 lead when Shawn Matthias, in a dazzling display of hand-eye coordination, converted a Dustin Byfuglien clearing attempt for his fourth goal of the season.
Jacob Trouba would tie the game a few minutes later, tipping the puck past Jacob Markstrom at the 11:06 mark to complete a pretty passing play involving Mark Scheifele and Evander Kane.
Dmitry Kulikov and Marcel Goc would take penalties 24 seconds apart to give the Jets a 5-on-3 power play that would greatly help decide the game.
Tobias Enstrom would score first on assists from Olli Jokinen and Byfuglien to give the Jest the lead and free Kulikov from the penalty box.
With Goc still serving his high-sticking minor, Blake Wheeler deflected home his 12th goal to extend Winnipeg's lead to two and complete the scoring in a busy opening period.
Evander Kane knocked in a pass from Frolik on a 2-on-1 break to make it 4-1 Jets early in the second period.
Nick Bjugstad would beat Ondrej Pavelec at the 5:55 mark, giving Panthers fans a glimmer of hope with his 7th of the campaign.
But that would be it for any potential Cats comeback, as Frolik buried a rebound of an Andrew Ladd shot past Markstrom with 2:07 remaining in the second frame to restore Winnipeg's three-goal advantage.
The team skated to a scoreless third period, allowing the Jets to breeze to a season split with the Cats.
Despite the loss, the road trip through Canada ended a very impressive 3-1. The Panthers return to Sunrise with five straight home games on the slate, giving them a chance to gain more ground in the playoff chase.
Todd's odds and ends
- The teams combined for 11 minor penalties in a very chippy first period, making the power play a huge factor in the game. The Jets converted twice while the Cats went 0 for 4. I don't know what Florida can do differently 37 games into the season, but they have to somehow find a way to get better with the man-advantage.
- The determined Jets snapped a six game (0-3-3) losing streak on home ice with the win over the Cats. Defenseman Zach Bogosian was out for all six of those, but returned for this one. No wonder Winnipeg won, it's Zach Bogosian people.
- Florida looked soft in their own end last night. Very little resistance was given on any of the Winnipeg goals. Jets' players had plenty of time and space to make plays and find the back of the net.
- In a bit of a surprise move (although like the Emperor, I sensed his presence in my preview), Jacob Markstrom got the start and made 27 stops in falling to 1-6-3 on the season. The Panthers had no issue rolling out Tim Thomas game after game but felt Scott Clemmensen couldn't go two nights in a row? To me, this means that Thomas isn't quite ready for duty and the Clem-dog champion will likely be in goal Monday against the Lightning. Not playing against Tampa Bay would give Thomas an additional four days to get ready for the Red Wings on Saturday.
- In addition to Kane, Frolik and Trouba, Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien also had multi-point nights by collecting two helpers each.
- With three goals in his last six games, Nick Bjugstad has crept within two of team leader Brad Boyes. Could the big rookie end up as Florida's top goal scorer this season? That would be a nice accomplishment for Bjugstad, but probably not the greatest thing for the team as there are a few other players who should be lighting the lamp more often.
- The Cats must of have been tired, they only managed a paltry 23 shots on Pavelec against a Jets D which is usually pretty accommodating to the opposition's scoring efforts.
- Arctic Ice Hockey has the other side. Check it out.