The Florida Panthers ended a three-game losing streak with an exciting, back-and-forth 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets in front of a sparse crowd at the BB&T Center.
Florida’s defense played a big role in the offensive outburst with Mark Pysyk and Aaron Ekblad getting first period goals to stake the Cats to an early two-goal lead.
Pysyk snapped a wrist shot from the top of the left circle between Winnipeg rookie keeper Eric Comrie’s body and blocker to open the scoring 2:48 into the action. The assists on the goal went to grinders Derek MacKenzie and Micheal Haley.
Ekblad popped his own rebound past Comrie 29 seconds later after taking a sweet lead pass from Jonathan Huberdeau. Aleksander Barkov, who would exit the tilt in the second period, drew the second helper on Ekblad’s fifth of the season.
The Jets got on the board at the 15:13 mark when defenseman Ben Chiarot’s shot from the point was blocked by Denis Malgin, deflected off the ice, then the skate of Patrik Laine, and then the back of Nikolaj Ehlers before flying over a handcuffed James Reimer.
Winnipeg would tie the game 2:30 after the pinball play when Brandon Tanev stole the puck from Ian McCoshen and fed Adam Lowry, who was all alone in front for a one-timer. Reimer got a piece of the shot, but not enough to keep it from dribbling in. MacKenzie failed to follow instructions from Alex Petrovic and pick up the wide-open Lowry.
Blake Wheeler put the Jets ahead with a power-play goal 4:46 into the middle frame. Wheeler wired one by Reimer to cap off a series of pretty touch passes in front. Laine and Mathieu Perreault collected the assists on the goal that came in large part due to a lazy clear by Michael Matheson and with MacKenzie in the sin bin for slashing.
The Panthers countered with a Denis Malgin tally with 4:13 left in the period to even the score at three apiece. Malgin got loose in front to rap home a centering feed from Colton Sceviour for his third goal in the last five games. Jamie McGinn picked up the second assist on the even-strength marker.
Vincent Trocheck put the Cats on top when converted a rebound of Keith Yandle’s power-play shot from the point that Huberdeau also took a whack at 48 ticks into the third period. Wheeler was the guilty Jet in the penalty box, serving a high-sticking call that carried over from the second.
After setting up two goals, Laine finally notched one of his own, taking a crossing pass from Bryan Little and firing a quick wrister through Reimer 1:03 after Trocheck lit the lamp. Dustin Byfuglien got the second assist for starting the play off with the breakout pass to Little.
Haley got the go-ahead goal at 9:48 with a tidy deflection of MacKenzie’s slapper from the right boards. Matheson drew the second assist by setting up MacKenzie’s drive with a bounce pass off the boards.
Reimer, who finished with 35 saves, shut the door the rest of the way, allowing Trocheck to seal the deal with a power-play marker into an empty net with 11 seconds remaining in regulation. Huberdeau picked up his third helper of the night to set up Trocheck for the clincher.
The Panthers overcame the loss of Barkov to an apparent head injury in the second period, to pick up the win and their fourth point in the last three games. With Roberto Luongo out, this might be the formula the Cats need to win games, as Reimer shows little to no signs of being able to hold the opposition to three goals or less. Florida will face the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night in the finale of the three-game homestand.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Pitch & Yaw
- Micheal Haley earned fist star honors for his game-winning goal and second multi-point outing of the season. Haley had two assists against the Rangers on November 4th.
- Winnipeg’s Eric Comrie made the second start of his career and suffered his first NHL loss. Comrie finished the game with 30 stops.
- The Panthers’ penalty kill came up big, snuffing out six of seven Jets’ power play attempts, including four in the third period.
- Aaron Ekblad tied Gord Murphy for third place on Florida's list for goals by a defenseman (42), behind Jay Bouwmeester (53) and all-time leader Robert Svehla (61).
- The high-flying Jets lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time since they were soundly beaten by Toronto and Calgary to open the 2017-18 campaign.
- Aleksander Barkov was injured midway through the second period when defenseman Jacob Trouba's shoulder hit him in the face. The game was Trouba’s 300th in the NHL. Barkov is listed as day-to-day.
- Brave the chill of Arctic Ice Hockey for the other side of the first of two meetings between the old Southeast Division rivals.