Winnipeg Jets 3, Florida Panthers 2 in overtime – With the win the Jets improve to 2-1 on this road trip, a trip that ends in New Jersey on Sunday night. (TSN Jets, TSN 1290). Jets are now 7-2 in their last nine on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 overall. The game was the midway point of the 48-game schedule, with the Jets sitting at 12-11-1. Jets are now 3-1 in the second game of back to backs, an area they really struggled in last year.
The Jets got off to a good start with Andrew Ladd scoring his 13th to put Winnipeg in front early. Blake Wheeler with his eighth made it 2-0, but with seconds left in the first Jonathan Huberdeau got the Panthers on the scoreboard. Huberdeau leads all rookies in scoring and has scored in each of the four games against the Jets this season. There was no scoring in the second, with Shawn Matthias scoring at 5:50 of the third to tie game. The Jets were outshot 12-4 in the third but hung on and managed to get the game to overtime where Dustin Byfuglien was the hero. Byfuglien controlled the puck in the offensive zone, worked his way into the slot and beat Jacob Markstrom glove side to end the game. It was Byfuglien's fourth goal of the season.
But the only reason the Jets won this game was the play of Ondrej Pavelec. He faced a season-high 40 shots, many of them terrific scoring chances as the Jets were very guilty of turnovers in their own zone. Whether it was glove saves or pad saves, Pavelec was the difference. This great goaltending performance came on the heels of Al Montoya's great game in Tampa.
Offence continues to be an issue for the Jets with a number of players way overdue. Offence from the back end has also slowed, a lot of that having to do with no Toby Enstrom, and the power play is creating chances, but not goals. However in the three games on this trip the Jets have only had three power plays.
The penalty killing is very good, as the Jets have now killed 21 of 21 over the past seven games, and is at 91 per cent in the last 10 games.
"Our goaltender was our best player," stated Coach Claude Noel post game. "We didn't manage the game very well, but we found a way to win." On the overtime winner where the toe drag in the offensive zone was a bit of a gamble by Byfuglien, "he has the ability to do that. You have to allow him to be a difference maker. The game wasn't the way we wanted to play. It wasn't smooth, but we got it done. Our penalty kill is our bread and butter and when you get that kind of goaltending you can make the odd mistake and get away with it."
Ladd has a three-game point streak going and has seven points (3-4-7) in his last five games. He has 13 points in 14 road games this season. Byfuglien finished the game with seven shots on goal and led the team in ice time at 27:26. Brian Campbell played 33:18 for the Panthers. Derek Meech and Chris Thorburn were again the healthy scratches.
The win pulls the Jets to within two points of Carolina for first place in the Southeast Division, and one back of the eighth-place New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference.