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Perreault scores four goals to lift Jets past Panthers

by Patrick Williams /

WINNIPEG -- Mathieu Perreault scored a career-high four goals to lead the Winnipeg Jets to an 8-2 victory Tuesday against the Florida Panthers at MTS Centre.

Perreault scored twice in the first 11:24 to help the Jets to an early lead before Winnipeg's four-goal second period turned the game into a rout.

"Four goals, it's something very special," Perreault said. "The bounces were going my way. It was one of those crazy nights. It was a fun night. The power play has been playing great. My linemates have been awesome."

The win was the 500th of Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice's NHL career.

Dustin Byfuglien scored twice for the Jets (22-14-8), and Jay Harrison and Evander Kane each had one goal. Byfuglien also had an assist for his first three-point game since last season.

Perreault's four goals tied a franchise record. Most recently, Ilya Kovalchuk scored four on Nov. 11, 2005, when the franchise was the Atlanta Thrashers. The eight goals on home ice also tied a franchise record.

Perreault, who has 15 goals in 43 games this season after scoring 18 goals in 69 games last season, is on a four-game point streak (six goals, two assists). His linemates, center Mark Scheifele and right wing Michael Frolik, each had two assists Tuesday, as did Jim Slater and Toby Enstrom.

An offseason signing as a free agent from the Anaheim Ducks expected to be the Jets' third-line center, Perreault had two goals and three assists in his first 24 games with Winnipeg. Maurice experimented with Perreault at left wing early in the season before he eventually moved him to a line with Scheifele and Frolik, and Perreault has 13 goals and nine assists in his past 19 games.

"I'm happy for [Perreault] because he has done it the right way," Maurice said. "He works so hard. He went through that stretch where he wasn't scoring, and his practices got even more competitive, and he worked even harder. Good for him. It's a good sell for the coaches, because if you work that hard, good things are going to happen."

The loss ended Florida's (20-12-9) three-game winning streak. The Panthers had won four of the first five games of their season-high six-game road trip before facing the Jets.

"We had a great trip, but to end it like this with a performance like tonight's, we're disappointed," Florida coach Gerard Gallant said. "It wasn't one guy. It wasn't one line. It was every player on our team."

Dave Bolland and Brad Boyes scored for the Panthers.

"We were just not prepared," Florida captain Willie Mitchell said. "I take responsibility. I have got to get the guys more prepared. It was a long road trip, 14 days, and some bad habits started creeping in [against the] Edmonton [Oilers on Jan. 11]. We talked about it. You saw those [habits] early."

Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo started for the fifth time in the past six games and made 16 saves before the Jets' fourth goal ended his night. Al Montoya, who spent the past two seasons with Winnipeg, finished in relief and made 11 saves. Rookie goaltender Michael Hutchinson made 25 saves for the Jets.

Winnipeg took a 1-0 lead 7:24 into the game when Perreault finished a centering a pass from Zach Bogosian. At 11:24, Perreault's snap shot from the right circle on the power play made it 2-0.

Byfuglien's 10th goal moved Winnipeg's lead to 3-0 early in the second period. His left-circle snap shot off a rush beat Luongo glove side at 3:39.

Bolland's first goal of the season 1:36 later made it 3-1. However, Byfuglien's second goal of the game at 6:23 put the Jets back up by three goals.

In 18 games since moving to defense after a rash of injuries struck the Winnipeg blue line in late November and December, Byfuglien has six goals and 10 assists.

Perreault completed his second career hat trick when he tipped Enstrom's shot through Montoya's pads at 15:23 of the second period. The other came against the Boston Bruins on Jan. 24, 2012, when he played for the Washington Capitals.

Perreault's fourth of the game at 16:32 made it 6-1.

"That was awesome," Perreault said of the MTS Centre crowd. "I got chills sitting on the bench. I almost couldn't believe it."

Harrison's goal at 4:26 of the third period, a goal from Boyes at 5:39 and a power-play goal from Kane with 6:12 left in the game finished the scoring.

Perreault's hat trick was the second this season for the Jets. Against the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 5, center Bryan Little had the franchise's first hat trick since Dec. 18, 2010.

With the Boston Bruins defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Tuesday, Florida is three points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers begin a five-game homestand Thursday against the Avalanche at BB&T Center, where they have not played since Dec. 31.

Afterward, Gallant opted to move on from the loss.

"Instead of showing a lot of video, they know they played a horrible game tonight, they weren't ready and they didn't compete," Gallant said. "It happens. We don't like it when it happens, but hopefully we learn a lesson from it."

The Jets, who are in the middle of a stretch of seven games in 11 days, will be going back on the road for a two-game road trip that starts against the Dallas Stars on Thursday. Winnipeg holds a three-point lead on the Vancouver Canucks for the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

"Our challenge is to forget [this game as quickly] as we can," Maurice said. "Enjoy it tonight, and then leave it there. We did what we needed to do early in the game."

Maurice is 500-483-187 in an NHL career that began in the 1995-96 season with his first job running an NHL bench with the Hartford Whalers, when he was 28 years old. Maurice coached the Hartford/Carolina Hurricanes franchise in two different stints, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2002, and he also coached the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I've been really fortunate," Maurice said. "I feel honored to be in this league that long."

Harrison has played for Maurice with Toronto, Carolina and Winnipeg, and Maurice was influential in the Jets acquiring the veteran defenseman from the Hurricanes on Dec. 18.

"Obviously [Maurice is] quite dedicated to his craft and a professor of the game, that's for sure," Harrison said. "It's a passion as well. His love of the game comes through with everything he does. Guys rally around it, and it's inspiring as well."

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