The Florida Panthers looked every bit like a team that will travel an astounding 14,076 miles by the time the get back to Sunrise in last night's embarrassing 8-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Mathieu Perreault bagged a career-high four goals and Dustin Byfuglien scored twice and added an assist to power the Jets' offensive explosion.
Perreault opened the scoring at 7:24 of the first after a Jonathan Huberdeau turnover. Michael Frolik badly missed wide, but the rebound went to Zach Bogosian, who neatly fed a wide-open Perreault.
A hooking call on Nick Bjugstad led to the next Winnipeg goal. Byfuglien held the puck in at the blue line before passing to Bryan Little. Little found Perreault open in the circle and he took his time and beat Roberto Luongo easily.
The Panthers played the Jets even the rest of the period and came close to getting on the board when Jimmy Hayes rang one off the crossbar.
Byfuglien scored early in the second period to put Winnipeg up by three. The big defenseman cruised into the Florida zone and snapped a shot by Luongo.
Dave Bolland bagged his first goal as Panther to give the Cats a glimmer of hope. Tomas Fleischmann dug the rebound of Dylan Olsen's shot out of Michael Hutchinson's pads and Bolland was there to clean up the mess in front.
Unfortunately, Byfuglien got another one 68 seconds later to put the tired Panthers to bed. This time Byfuglien skated in deep and slipped the puck past Luongo, sending the beleaguered goaltender to the bench.
Perreault notched his hat-trick by camping out in front of Al Montoya and deflecting Toby Enstrom's shot into the net. The 27-year-old forward completed his big night by backhanding the rebound of Frolik's breakway attempt by Montoya a 1:09 later.
Defenseman Jay Harrison blasted a shot home from the blue line at 4:28 of the final frame to make 7-1, Jets.
Brad Boyes finished off a nice 3-on-2 rush involving Aleksander Barkov and Huberdeau with his ninth goal of the season to finally stop the bleeding.
Evander Kane completed the scoring with a power-play goal from Enstrom and Adam Lowry with 4:28 remaining on the clock. Bjugstad was the guilty party in the penalty box again.
Despite the lopsided loss, the Panthers finished the grueling road trip with an impressive 4-2 record to remain firmly in the playoff hunt. The Boston Bruins increased their lead over the Cats to three points with a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay, but Florida still has three games in hand on the B's. The Cats need to put his game (an aberration) behind them, get some Z's and come out ready for the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. The tilt against Colorado kicks off a big five-game homestand.
Odds & Sods
- Mathieu Perreault tied Ilya Kovalchuk's record for most goals in a game in franchise history. Kovalchuk bagged four back in 2005, when the club was known as the Atlanta Thrashers.
- The win was the 500th of Paul Maurice's NHL coaching career. Hats off to you, sir.
- A forgettable night for the Cats tandem in net. Roberto Luongo finished with 16 saves on 20 shots while Al Montoya stopped 11 of 15 in relief.
- Former Panther Michael Frolik collected two assists, as did Toby Enstrom, Jim Slater and Mark Scheifele.
- Dustin Byfuglien has 16 points in 18 games since moving back to the blue line to help shore up Winnipeg's decimated defense corps.
- Dave Bolland, Sean Bergenheim, Willie Mitchell and Tomas Fleischmann managed to survive the massacre with +1 ratings. Dylan Olsen and Jussi Jokinen were even on the night. Everyone else...
- Rookie Michael Hutchinson turned aside 25 shots to raise his record to 12-4-2. If the Jets make the playoffs, Hutchinson should get some consideration for the Calder Trophy.
- Nick Bjugstad, Aaron Ekblad and Tomas Kopecky led the Cats with four shots on goal. Kopecky finished the game with a ugly -4 rating, matching Brian Campbell for the team low.
- Jump on your browser and take off to the Great White North. Make sure to stop by Arctic Ice Hockey when you get there.