Jets Edge Panthers in Halloween Thriller

SUNRISE, FL – On an appropriately dark and stormy Halloween night, the Winnipeg Jets arrived into South Florida for the first time in their new costumes. The Panthers were hoping to build on the momentum from their come-from-behind win over the Buffalo Sabres, but the Jets had a late trick up their sleeves, earning the last laugh, winning 4-3 in a shootout.

Winnipeg got on the board first, and quickly. The Panthers had possession behind their own net but lost the puck in a battle on the far side boards. The puck found its way to Winnipeg’s captain, Andrew Ladd. Ladd found Kyle Wellwood skating in, and he stuffed the puck home past José Théodore to put the Jets up 1-0 just 3:44 into the first period.

The 1-0 lead quickly doubled at 10 minutes into the opening frame. After Scottie Upshall took an elbowing penalty, the Panthers attempted a clear from the left side face-off circle. Ed Jovanovski and Stephen Weiss could not get their sticks on the puck. Instead, Evander Kane was able to get possession and  promptly took a hard slap-shot that found the back of the net.

At the end of the period, the Panthers were desperate for some momentum. They had the puck in the offensive zone for a majority of the last minute, cycling the puck back to Jason Garrison. It was just a matter of time before he would get an opening. It came with 20 seconds left in the period, as he took a hard slap shot from the blue line, and put the Cats on the board. Of the 20 Panthers shots in the first period, it was the only one to reach the back of the net.

“Although I didn’t think they had a ton of energy tonight, they’re still finding ways to score,” Coach Kevin Dineen said, referring to the Panthers play. Although they did get the puck on net, the energy level Panthers fans have come to expect did not seem there. The “Comeback Cats” did show up, though.

After a very physical second period, which included a dangerous hit by Jack Skille on Tobias Enstrom, the third period belonged to the offense, notably Tomas Fleischmann.

Mike Weaver took a shot from the right point just three minutes into the third period. It bounced off of Stephen Weiss in front of the net and found its way to the left side of the goal and Fleischmann, who knocked the puck into the open net to tie the game at 2.

Then, 18 minutes into the period, Fleischmann got the puck again, and went right to left, making moves around the Winnipeg defense. He finally shot the puck top shelf past Ondrej Pavelec. The power-play goal gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead.

Just a minute later, Kane had another opportunity. Zach Bogosian’s initial shot was saved by Théodore, but the rebound went off the top of Wellwood’s stick, and Kane used his stick blade to drive it home. The goal was initially waved off, but after a review, it was allowed, and the game was tied. After the game, the referee admitted he made a mistake.

“When you get it waved off that emphatically, you’re under the assumption that it is going to be a no goal,” Dineen said. “And when you get it replayed in the dressing room that it is no goal. I thought we were in pretty good stead there. It’s very surprising that it would go from that to all of the sudden a goal. I think some people learned some lessons from that. I think there were some mistakes made on the ice. Unfortunately it costs us a point. A very expensive point.”

The point was lost in the shootout. Kris Versteeg and Mike Santorelli missed for the Panthers, and while Tim Stapleton missed for Winnipeg, Ladd and Wellwood both scored to give the Jets their first victory in South Florida under the new moniker. Ladd was credited with the game-winning goal.

“Next time we’ve got to be better in the last minute, “ Fleischmann said. “That’s two [out of the last three].”

The Panthers look to right things on Thursday when the Central Division leading Chicago Blackhawks come to town. Faceoff is at 7:30 from the BankAtlantic Center

THREE STARS:

  1. Andrew Ladd (WPG) GW SO GOAL
  2. Tomas Fleischmann (FLA) 2 G 1 A
  3. Ondrej Pavelec (WPG) W 39 SV

Justin Cohen is the Florida Panthers beat reporter for Inside Hockey. He Can be reached at jcohen@insidehockey.com, or you can follow him on twitter @IHPanthers.

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