Recap: Jets big guns shoot down Panthers by 5-2 count

Scheifele and Connor each score twice for Winnipeg

Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor each scored twice as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Florida Panthers, who were missing four regulars, by a 5-2 count at Canada Life Centre.

After a high-sticking minor on Sam Bennett, Scheifele opened the scoring 13:20 into the first period. The Jets won a battle in the corner and got the puck back to Josh Morrissey, who drifted into the middle before floating a shot into the slot. Pierre-Luc Dubois knocked the puck down, turned and fed it Scheifele, who was behind the defense, for the finish.

Carter Verhaeghe would answer 51 seconds later as the Cats converted with Brenden Dillion in the penalty box. Matthew Tkachuk blocked off Nate Schmidt attempt to wrap the puck around the back boards and then played catch with the Brandon Montour. After getting the puck back, Tkachuk, sent a soft backhand pass from behind the net through sticks to Verhaeghe, and he sniped Connor Hellebuyck glove-side high from the left circle.

Connor would waste no time putting the Jets back on top, beating Knight 17 seconds after Verhaeghe’s tying goal. Following a defensive zone faceoff win, Dillion poked the puck over to Connor, whose subsequent aerial pass sent Dubois into the Panthers zone with speed. Dubois pulled up and dished off to Connor, who put a wrister from the top of the left circle through Knight’s pads. That’s a save Knight has to make.

Knight’s night would come to a halt 1:43 into the second after he surrendered another to Connor with the lone assist going to who else, Dubois. Ryan Lomberg tried to lug the puck out of his own zone and got stripped by Connor. The loose disk went right to Dubois, who passed to Connor, and this time he beat Knight down low from the right circle.

With Sergei Bobrovsky now manning the goal, the Panthers would go on to dominate the rest of the middle frame, pelting Hellebuyck with a total of 25 shots, but they just couldn’t light the lamp and Winnipeg extended the lead at 13:23 when Scheifele got his second power-play marker of the night from Connor and Schmidt. Connor’s hard centering feed from the right boards found Scheifele behind Lomberg in front and he easily one-timed the pass home.

The trio of recent Checkers call-ups combined on Florida’s second goal which came at 9:02 of the third. Matt Kiersted collected the puck behind his net and carried over the blue line before head-manning to Chris Tierney. Tierney gained the Winnipeg zone and sent a knifing cross that went through Morrissey’s skates to Zac Dalpe, who buried it. Too little, too late, but nice to see the 33-year-old journeyman Dalpe get his first goal as a Panther. The assist was Tierney’s first point in his first-ever game with Florida, while Kiersted collected his first point of the season as well.

Adam Lowry completed the scoring with an empty-net goal from Dylan Samberg with 3:01 remaining in regulation.

Missing Aleksander Barkov, Anton Lundell, Radko Gudas and Patric Hornqvist, and playing the finale of a five-game road trip, the Panthers had no answers for the Jets’ dynamic duo of Scheifele and Connor, who combined to dent the twine four times. With three assists on those goals, Dubois played Harrison to Sheifele and Connor’s turn as Lennon and McCartney. While Hellebuyck was busy making 39 saves, Knight got yanked after giving up three goals on 15 shots. Knight has been very good for the most part, but he is still an NHL sophomore, so growing pains are to be expected. Silver lining - Bobrovsky looked sharp in relief, yielding just the once to Scheifele (virtually unstoppable) on the 15 shots he faced. A disappointing outing, but all in all, considering what the Cats are currently going through, a 2-2-1 finish on this trek west is respectable. The one that hurts the most was gagging it up late in Edmonton and only coming away with a single point at Rogers Place. The Panthers will return to Sunrise to face the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. Hopefully, Barkov and Lundell will back for the key match-up.

Pitch & Yaw

  • It was Paul Maurice’s first game back in Winnipeg since he resigned as Jets head coach on December 17, 2021. Maurice was 315-223-62 in 600 games over nine seasons with the Jets.
  • Huge night for Kyle Connor, who scored twice and set up another. In addition to the three points, the Winnipeg wing finished with a team-high six shots.
  • Carter Verhaeghe notched his club-leading 15th and registered a game-high eight shots on net. Verhaeghe and Winnipeg’s Mark Schiefele are now part of a six-man group tied for eighth in the league in goals.
  • In adding to posting the win, it was milestone night for goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who played in his 400th NHL game.
  • Matthew Tkachuk’s first period assist extended his point streak to three games while the Cats ended Jets forwards Blake Wheeler and Cole Perfetti  five-game point streaks.
  • For more on Winnipeg’s first win over Florida since 2019, visit Arctic Ice Hockey./