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Panthers ground Jets 4-1

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers were in dire need of some good news Tuesday, and two of their brightest prospects helped deliver it.

Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau scored on a penalty shot, goalie of the future Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves and the Panthers beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 at the BB&T Center.

"I felt like they had a lot of energy tonight," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "They worked from the start of the game to the finish and just the intangibles. ... It's not like we're changing a heck of a lot. But the margin of error between winning and losing is so small. The effort and the intensity we're getting out of the top to the bottom of the lineup makes a difference."

The victory came on the same day Panthers general manager Dale Tallon announced that Stephen Weiss, the longest-tenured member of the team, would undergo season-ending wrist surgery.

Shawn Matthias added a highlight-reel goal for the injury-ravaged Panthers, who won for only the third time in 12 games. Tomas Kopecky and Mike Santorelli also scored, and Tomas Fleischmann had two assists.

"We worked our tails off tonight," Matthias said. "Every single guy in the lineup was going as hard as they could and it showed. We were in their end pretty much the whole game just working the corners and battling for pucks. That's how we're going to be successful here. It felt good winning. We've got to keep this going now."

In addition to Weiss, Tallon announced Tuesday that defenseman Mike Weaver (lower body) and goalie Jose Theodore (lower body) would miss at least another month; defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (upper body) would miss 3-4 weeks; and forward Scottie Upshall (lower body) and defenseman Ed Jovanovski (lower body) would be out at least another week to 10 days.

The Panthers also were without forward Kris Versteeg, who has eight goals in eight games against Winnipeg over the past two seasons.

Markstrom, who played in two games earlier this season and was recalled when Theodore was placed on injured reserve Sunday, was particularly impressive in the third period while the Panthers were nursing a lead.

He stopped all 18 shots he faced in that period.

"That was good for him to get the win," Dineen said. "He was a difference-maker. They pushed at different times and I think he responded very well."

Huberdeau set a Panthers' record with his second penalty-shot goal this season when he gave Florida a 3-1 lead at 14:50 of the second period. He also beat the Philadelphia Flyers' Ilya Bryzgalov in a 5-2 victory on Feb. 21.

Huberdeau became the first NHL rookie with two penalty-shot goals in a season since 2000-01 when Columbus' David Vyborny went 2-for-2. Huberdeau, who has scored in all three games against Winnipeg this season, leads all rookies with 11 goals. He beat Ondrej Pavelec with a wrist shot to the glove side that found its way just under the crossbar.

"I knew I was going to shoot there," said Huberdeau, who was awarded the penalty shot after being hooked from behind by Dustin Byfuglien. "I just knew from the beginning. I've got to mix it up. I never shot in my life, but I said tonight I'm going to shoot. I did."

Huberdeau's goal came after Matthias broke a 1-1 tie at 9:55 of the second period with his second goal in three games. After getting the puck just inside the Florida blue line, Matthias picked up speed, then beat defenseman Mark Stuart with a slick one-handed backhand-to-forehand move before firing a wrist shot past the glove of Pavelec.

"It's just reaction," Matthias said. "I can't tell you why I picked that. When you play like that, you just let your body take over and hope it works, and it did. It felt good, I guess, I don't know."

"I've seen that play out of Shawn before and I know he has that in his bag of tricks," Dineen said. "I like when he explodes outside as well and I think that sets up that move. It was a beautiful goal. It's a nice way to finish off a very strong game. There was a very nice goal by Shawn Matthias, but he had a very well-rounded game as well."

Santorelli, who was sent down to the American Hockey League earlier this season, scored his first National Hockey League goal since Feb. 28, 2012.

With Weiss done for the season, Santorelli took over his spot in the dressing room.

His goal at 3:43 of the third period came after he took a cross-ice pass from Brian Campbell at the side of the net. He deked Pavelec to the outside before bringing the puck back and stuffing it home on the backhand.

"Maybe it brought me a little luck," Santorelli said. "Maybe change is good. That was a big win."

Kyle Wellwood scored his first goal of the season for the Jets, who had won five of their last seven. Pavelec stopped 22 shots.

"I didn't think we were very good, we weren't very good at all," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "We lacked a lot of things. It was concerning to me. I didn't think we played hard enough. I didn't think we did the necessary things we needed to do to win the game."

Noel seemed particularly displeased with the fact his team never went on the power play.

"We never paid the price to win and we're not good enough to win easy," he said. "We never even drew a penalty. How do you go through a game not drawing a penalty? Usually that comes from your work ethic or from your battle level. I think that pretty much explains exactly the game you played, and why and how this could be is very concerning."

Kopecky opened the scoring 5:07 into the game with his seventh goal in 10 games, beating Pavelec on a one-timer just outside the right faceoff dot. The goal came seconds after Fleischmann prevented a Winnipeg goal when he got his stick in the way as Bryan Little was about to put a rebound into an open net.

Wellwood, back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past four games, tied the game at 1-1 at 1:42 of the second period with a wrist shot from the slot. He had been held to only two assists in his first 15 games.

But the Jets then watched Florida score the next three goals in a disappointing replay of their first visit to the BB&T Center Jan. 31, when the Panthers scored the last four goals to win 6-3.

"As a team we didn't get the job done and not enough guys played to their potential," captain Andrew Ladd said. "At the end of the day, it comes down to needing everyone in this room to buy into what we're doing and to have that resolve every night and desperation at this point."

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