The Winnipeg Jets scored four times in the third period to end the Florida Panthers three-game winning streak with a 7-2 victory over the gassed-looking Cats, who were coming off a big win in Calgary a day earlier.
Florida took the lead 8:57 into the first period on Denis Malgin’s power-play goal. After taking an entry pass from Nick Bjugstad, Malgin played catch with Mike Matheson before sniping Connor Hellebuyck from just above the right circle for his tenth goal.
Winnipeg rookie Kyle Connor replied 3:09 later with Mark Pysyk off for boarding. Blake Wheeler took a shot from the right circle that James Reimer bobbled, allowing the play to continue. Connor dug the puck out and got it back to Wheeler and smartly circled the net to receive a cross and put it away for his twentieth goal. The second assist on the play went to Patrik Laine.
The Jets took the lead 4:23 into the second when Nikolaj Ehlers collected Tyler Myers’ dump-in and fired a shot from a harmless looking angle that deflected off MacKenize Weegar’s stick and then off Reimer’s shoulder before bouncing over the goalie and into the net. Josh Morrissey collected the second assist on the crazy goal that proved once again that it’s never a bad idea to put the puck on goal.
The Panthers battled back to to tie the score 2:55 after Ehlers’ goal, again striking on the power play. Keith Yandle took a wrister from the high slot that Hellebuyck stopped with his left pad. Evgenii Dadonov whacked the rebound out of the air and off Aleksander Barkov, giving the Finnish-born pivot his twentieth of the season.
Mark Scheifele notched the go-ahead goal right after Nick Bjugstad’s tripping penalty expired. Dustin Byfuglien fed Wheeler along the boards and he moved into the faceoff circle before finding Scheifele with a short pass that the 24-year-old one-timed home with 1:31 left in the frame.
The tired Panthers didn’t really answer the bell in the third as the Jets reeled off four more goals on just seven shots to make a rout of what was a competitive game for the first half of the action.
Connor got his second of the night, and fourth in the last five games, at the 3:38 mark to put the Cats down by two, essentially ending it. After some back and forth passing between Morrissey and Myers at the blue line, Myers found Wheeler with a slick diagonal feed in the left circle and he teed up Connor for a one-time drive from the slot.
Myers made another fine play to set up Winnipeg’s next goal when he moved down from the point after taking a pass from Mathieu Perreault. Myers slipped the puck under the chasing Dadonov’s stick to Bryan Little in front and Little’s backhander went off the post and in.
The speedy Perreault would add a goal of his own at 15:27 to put the Jets up by three. Jack Roslovic stole the puck from Yandle at the Panthers blue line and dished off to Perreault on the rush. Perreault moved in on Reimer and made a little stick move as if to pass back to Roslovic, freezing the keeper before ripping it in short-side.
Laine completed the scoring with a 1:35 left in regulation. The young Finn forced Alex Petrovic into a turnover as he was trying to get the puck out of the Florida zone. Perrault pounced on the gaffe and fed Little, who tapped it to Laine down low and he finished with backhander.
Most, if not everyone, thought this would prove to the Panthers toughest task on the five-game road trip, especially with it being the back end of the back-to back against Calgary and Winnipeg, and that certainly came to pass. The Cats put up a pretty good fight before their legs gave out and the Jets, now boasting the league’s third-highest point total, bombed them in the third period. The Panthers need to quickly put this one behind them and prepare for another difficult test in Toronto, before they return to Sunrise, where they play 11 of their next 12 after the game against the Maple Leafs. A bit of good news, despite the loss, the Panthers remain six points out of a playoff spot with four games in hand on both the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Pitch & Yaw
- The win pushed the Jets past Nashville into first place in the Central Division. Their time in the top spot could be short-lived as the Predators have a couple of games in hand.
- In case you weren’t keeping track in the recap, a trio of Jets finished with three points. Mathieu Perreault had a goal and two assists and Tyler Myers and Blake Wheeler each had three helpers.
- Speaking of Wheeler, he has nine points (2G/5A) in a five-game point streak. Mark Scheifele’s goal gave him points in four-straight games.
- A tough night for James Reimer, who has looked a little shaky since returning from injury despite winning two of three starts. Reimer surrendered all seven goals on 34 shots.
- Connor Hellebuyck registered his 31st win of the season, finishing with 25 saves. Hellebuyck is second behind Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (34) in that category.
- Aleksander Barkov took over the team scoring lead with 54 points and hit the 20-goal for the third consecutive season. Barkov has 11 points (5G/6A) in the last 8 games.
- Arctic Ice Hockey has the other side of the Jets win which split the season series.
Condensed Game (courtesy of NHL.com)