Skip to main content

Byfuglien gives Jets another OT win against Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. Ondrej Pavelec and Dustin Byfuglien helped the Winnipeg Jets leave the BB&T Center with a smile at least one time this season.

Pavelec stopped 38 of 40 shots and Byfuglien scored with 40.5 seconds left in overtime to give the Jets a 3-2 victory against the Florida Panthers on Friday night.

The Jets lost at the BB&T Center in their first two visits, 4-1 on Tuesday and 6-3 back on Jan. 31.

"It was a sloppy, sloppy game again," Jets defenseman Mark Stuart said. "It wasn't much better than the other night in this building. But we stuck with it. It's huge to get the two points thanks to our goaltender. He was huge for us, kept us in it and a great play by Buff there."

Byfuglien scored after Winnipeg, which had squandered a 2-0 lead, kept possession of the puck in the Florida zone for a long stretch. The big defenseman grabbed a loose puck along the boards, skated toward the middle of the ice, used a toe drag to get past Tomas Kopecky and fired a wrist shot that beat Jacob Markstrom to the short side.

It was Byfuglien's fourth goal of the season, but his first in 14 games. His last one came on Jan. 27 against the New York Islanders.

"You could tell on the bench he was pretty fired up the last 10 minutes to get this thing back on track," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "He has that ability. Those guys are hard to find. He makes a toe drag in the slot, holds on, holds on, and it's in the net. That's what he can do. He has the ability to do that, which is great."

Winnipeg evened the season series at two games apiece, with both of their victories coming in overtime. The Jets won 3-2 at MTS Centre on Feb. 5.

Andrew Ladd had a goal and an assist for the Jets, who completed a three-game swing in Florida with a 2-1-0 record. They wrap up their four-game road trip against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.

The Jets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, on Thursday night behind a 28-save effort by goalie Al Montoya.

As was the case Thursday, the Jets' penalty killing played a big role in Friday's victory. Winnipeg killed off all four Panthers power plays, extending its streak of successful kills to 21.

"The penalty killing has been one of our bread-and-butter," Noel said. "Again, you look at last night with Montoya and you look tonight with Pavelec, what can you say? If you get that kind of goaltending, it affords you to make some mistakes on the penalty killing. We've got that the last two games. Our penalty killing has come up big, but our goaltender has been huge as well."

Montoya got the start Thursday after Noel said after Tuesday's loss against Florida that Pavelec looked tired.

He looked anything but tired on Friday when he came up big time and time again, particularly in the third period when Florida outshot Winnipeg 12-4.

"I don't think I was tired [Tuesday]," Pavelec said. "The game didn't go the way I want it. It doesn't mean I'm tired. We just didn't show up that game in this building. After last night it was huge to come strong in this building and get the win. It's nice to get back-to-back wins, especially on the road. We couldn't get this done last year, so we're happy for it."

Blake Wheeler had the other goal for the Jets, who moved to within a point of the New York Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Shawn Matthias scored for the Panthers, who have lost seven of nine and have the worst record in the NHL at 7-12-6. Huberdeau, who leads NHL rookies with 12 goals, has scored in each of the four games against Winnipeg.

The Panthers are 0-5 in games decided in overtime. They're also 1-1 in shootouts, and five of the six non-regulation losses have come at home.

"Overtime has been a real Achilles' heel for us," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "You lose five games at home in overtime, that's disappointing for our players and for our fan base. The game had some tempo to it. I liked our last 50 minutes of the hockey game. Not to finish it and take it to the next level is disappointing."

One night after being pulled after allowing two goals on two shots in a 7-1 road loss against the Washington Capitals, Markstrom was back in net and he rebounded from a tough start with a solid outing.

Markstrom, the Panthers' goalie of the future, finished with 25 saves.

Right wing Kris Versteeg was back in the Florida lineup after he missed the previous 12 games with an upper-body injury. He came in with eight goals against the Jets during the past two seasons, including his only one this season, but was held scoreless.

Winnipeg led 2-1 going into the third period before Matthias tied the game at 5:50. Jack Skille sprinted to keep the puck from getting out of the Winnipeg zone and his flip bounced over the stick of defenseman Grant Clitsome. Kopecky grabbed the loose puck and fed Matthias, who fired a shot high over a sprawling Pavelec.

"We needed that, we needed to tie it up, there was only a few minutes left," Matthias said. "We had the momentum there. We have to finish what we started. They were on their heels, we have to come out and get that third goal and win."

Ladd, who has seven points in his past five games, opened the scoring 2:35 into the game on Winnipeg's first shot — making it three goals on three shots against Markstrom over the past two games.

After a turnover in the neutral zone, Ladd came in on a 2-on-1 and fired a wrist shot from just outside the left dot. The puck found its way between Markstrom's left arm and his body and trickled over the goal line just before Wheeler slid and knocked the net off its moorings.

"That's never how you want to start a hockey game," Markstrom said. "As more and more time went off the clock, I felt better and better and I felt like I got into the game coming into the second period. The guys did a hell of a job in the third to push back and tie it up."

Wheeler made it 2-0 at 17:48 when he took advantage of a defensive breakdown by the Panthers. He held on to the puck after crossing the blue line and let three defenders get down close to the net before firing a wrist shot that beat Markstrom high to the glove side.

Huberdeau cut the lead with 12.9 seconds left in the period when he batted home a loose puck in front of the net.

The Panthers had the better of play over the last two periods, but the Jets found a way to win on a night when they didn't play their best.

"Every team needs it," Byfuglien said. "It doesn't matter how you win, you can always build off it. You can look at the things you did wrong and build off that, too. What's most important is that we got our two points."

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.