For the second time in ten days Reilly Smith and Jaromir Jagr did all the goal-scoring damage as the Florida Panthers rallied to beat the Winnipeg Jets by a 3-2 count to even their record at 1-1-1 three games into a five-game road trip.
The tilt marked the debut of deadline day acquisitions Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell. Defenseman Jakub Kindl is with the team, but was scratched as Steven Kampfer stayed in the lineup.
Florida opened the scoring at the 13:48 mark of the first period. After taking a lead pass from Kampfer, Vincent Trocheck delivered a gorgeous aerial strike right onto the blade of Smith, who redirected it by Ondrej Pavelec for his 20th of the season.
Roberto Luongo was a wall in goal, stopping all 16 Winnipeg shots he faced, to just 5 for his side, allowing the Cats to scurry to the dressing room with the one-goal lead intact.
That lead did not last long once the teams took the MTS Centre ice for the second period.
Dustin Byfuglien shoveled a rebound of Nikolaj Ehlers' chip shot from in close to tie the game at 5:23. Mark Scheifele drew the secondary assist by getting the puck in front to the Danish rookie.
The Jets took the lead 2:35 later when Alexander Burmistrov sent Andrew Copp in alone on Luongo with a Panthers' power play expiring. The 21-year-old calmly settled the puck down before putting it behind the veteran goaltender's stems for his second career goal.
Copp would take a slashing minor early in the third period, joining Joel Armia in the box, to help spark Florida's comeback.
Smith bagged his second of the night on the 5-on-3 man-advantage after Trocheck collected the rebound of Purcell's drive from the high slot and sweetly dished it off on the backhand to the waiting winger in front of the net. Smith established a new career-high with his 21st goal and temporarily took the team lead in that department, until...
1:45 later, when Jagr took a pass at center ice from Jussi Jokinen and slickly worked his way into the slot before shooting the puck off Jacob Trouba and by a helpless Pavelec. Dmitry Kulikov picked up the second assist on Jagr's 21st of the campaign.
Florida's defense limited the Jets to 7 shots on goal in the final stanza and Luongo, who finished with 30 stops, shut the door, allowing the Cats to stay on top of the Atlantic Division with 80 points, two better than cross-state rival, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Pitch & Yaw
- In addition to his assist on Reilly Smith's game-tying goal, Teddy Purcell registered a team-high 4 shots on goal and one block in 15:34 TOI.
- Things did not go as well for Jiri Hudler, who had just one shot on goal and finished the game with a -2 rating. Hudler did block a shot and was credited with one hit.
- Winnipeg has now lost ten of its past twelve games on home ice. The Jets are 12 points behind in the chase for the Western Conference's final wild card berth.
- Vincent Trocheck's two-assist performance made him the fourth Panther this season to hit the 40-point plateau. It was Trocheck eighth multi-point game of the campaign.
- Winnipeg keeper Ondrej Pavelec stopped 19 shots and saw his record drop to 6-9-2.
- Need to see the advanced stats breakdown? war-on-ice has it for your right here.
- NHL.com has a nice highlight package for you to see with your own eyes.
- Brave the cold of Arctic Ice Hockey for the other side of Florida's season sweep of the team formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers.