The Florida Panthers beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 to cap a successful homestand and stay within six points of the surging Boston Bruins. The Cats exacted a meausre of revenge on the Jets, who pinned a 8-2 on them back in January, knocking Winnipeg from a playoff spot.
After a brisk start by both teams, the game bogged down into a tight-checking defensive affair. The Cats drew first blood at 16:28 when Dave Bolland's sweet backhand pass found a diving Derek MacKenzie, who reached out with one arm and punched the puck off goaltender Michael Hutchinson's shoulder and over the goal line. Shawn Thornton drew the second assist on the highlight reel goal by starting the play off with a good pass off the boards to Bolland.
The second period saw each club get a power-play opportunity in the first ten minutes. The Jets failed to score on an iffy interference call on Aaron Ekblad, while the Cats man-advantage unit was absolutely dreadful trying to convert Toby Enstrom's cross-checking call.
Winnipeg tied the game just ten seconds after Enstrom stepped out of the box. Mark Scheifele skated in unimpeded from center ice and snapped a beauty by Dan Ellis for his eleventh goal of the season, with the assists going to Blake Wheeler and Adam Pardy.
Mark Stuart would give the Cats a second chance on the power play later in the frame, and this time Florida would make the most of it. With the Panthers buzzing the net, Jonathan Huberdeau collected a Jaromir Jagr miss and fed Brad Boyes,who tipped the puck out of the air and off of the Jets' Pardy. Pardy tried to whack the puck out the air to safety, but instead knocked into his own net, giving the Cats the lead and Boyes his twelfth goal of the campaign.
The Panthers got a bit of a scare early in the third period, when Ellis was run over by Andrew Ladd. The third-string goaler, who finished with 18 stops, would shake it off in Swiftian fashion to stay in the game, keeping ECHLer Sam Brittain on the bench.
Winnipeg's Drew Stafford evened the affair at 6:13 after a taking an aerial bloop pass from former Panther Michael Frolik and shoving it by a startled Ellis.
Florida would produce the game-winner with 3:53 remaining in regulation time to stay firmly in the playoff hunt. Aleksander Barkov struck the decisive blow with a quick wrist shot to finish off the sharp passing of linemates Huberdeau and Jagr.
Nick Bjugstad completed the scoring to wrap up Florida's thirtieth victory of 2014-15, with Hutchinson pulled for an extra-attacker, with his team-leading twenty-fourth goal after a Jussi Jokinen steal with 46 ticks left on the clock.
Wings & Flaps
- After going 0-5 after coming over from Dallas late last season, Dan Ellis is 2-0-1 with a 2.53 GAA in emergency relief of Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya.
- Jonathan Huberdeau's assist on Barkov's winning goal was the 100th point of his NHL career. Huberdeau extended his point streak to five games and tied Nick Bjugsatd for the club scoring lead with 41 points.
- Brad Boyes now has two goals in five February games after not finding the back of the net during the month of January.
- In addition to his goal, Mark Scheifele led the Jets with four shots on goal.
- The Panthers raised their record to 17-4-5 this season when scoring first.
- The loss left Winnipeg one point behind the Los Angeles Kings for the Western Conference's final Wild Card berth.
- Jaromir Jagr's two-assist night gave him five points in five games as a Panther.
- Despite only seeing 19 shots, Michael Hutchinson had a pretty solid outing for the Jets. The Panthers did a job good of putting traffic in front of the netminder, whose best save came on Jagr during the second period.
- Fly "true north" to Arctic Ice Hockey for more. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold.