A pair of teams in different situations take the ice in an inter-conference tilt north of the border. The Florida Panthers are on the road as they travel to face the Winnipeg Jets Sunday night. Florida was in action Saturday night in Calgary: they were coming off a 4-3 win over Vancouver in their last matchup Wednesday night. Winnipeg won their second straight game as they trounced Colorado 6-1 at home Friday night. The Panthers skated to a 6-4 win at home in the first matchup this season on December 4, 2017.
Florida Panthers Struggling to Stay in Wild Card Race
Florida continued their road swing out west with a stop in Calgary Saturday night before they played in this contest. The Panthers entered Saturday eight points behind the Islanders for the final wild card spot but they have a staggering six games in hand. With the top three spots all but locked up in the Atlantic Division, it will be interesting to see what Dale Tallon does at the trade deadline. The Panthers come into this game 15th in the league with a 2.9 goal per game average. Florida is 25th in the league in goals against as they allow 3.2 goals per contest. The Panthers are 22nd in the league on the power play with an 18.5 percent success rate. Florida has fallen to 20th in the league in penalty killing as they have a 79.9 percent ratio in killing off shorthanded situations.
The Panthers won their second straight to open this five game road trip and have won six of their last seven games going into Saturday. Florida was outshot 16-14 in a wild opening period against Vancouver but skated off with a 4-2 lead. After trailing 1-0 in the opening minute, the Panthers knotted the game on Evgenii Dadonov’s 14th goal of the season at the 7:36 mark. Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov assisted on the goal. Florida allowed Vancouver to take the lead just 34 seconds later. Florida tied the game at two with Jamie McGinn’s power play goal at 13:01 of the period. His eighth of the season was assisted by Aaron Ekblad and Denis Malgin. Alex Petrovic gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead with his first of the year at 17:25 on an assist from Jared McCann. Just 1:11 later, Bjugstad netted his 10th of the year off an assist from Barkov to make it a 4-2 game. In the second period, Florida was outshot 13-6 and outscored 1-0 to see Vancouver cut the deficit to 4-3. With Mark Pysyk and Derek MacKenzie in the box, the Canucks cashed in on a five on three situation. The third period saw Florida outshoot Vancouver 14-8 and neither team lit the lamp, allowing the Panthers to earn the win. James Reimer made 34 saves to earn the win for the Panthers, who were outshot 37-34.
Winnipeg Jets Battling for Central Division Lead
Winnipeg improved to 5-2-1 on this ridiculously lengthy 10 game homestand as the Jets rolled over Colorado. The Jets entered Saturday tied with Nashville atop the Central Division with 77 points though the Predators have two games in hand. The Jets are 6th in the league scoring 3.2 goals per game. The problem is, Winnipeg is 7th in goals against as they give up 2.7 goals per contest. The Jets have the 3rd best power play in the league as they convert only 23.2 percent of their chances with the man advantage. Winnipeg currently is 6th in the league in penalty killing as they successfully kill off just 82.9 percent of their shorthanded situations.
The Jets won their second straight game by hammering the Avalanche. Winnipeg outshot Colorado 11-8 in the opening period and took a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. Blake Wheeler opened the scoring with his 15th of the season at 10:09 of the period. Mark Scheifele and Toby Enstrom assisted on the goal. The second period saw Winnipeg outshoot Colorado by a 15-9 margin and they outscored the Avalanche 3-0 to take a 4-0 edge after 40 minutes. Kyle Connor made it a 2-0 game with his 19th of the season off assists from Dustin Byfuglien and Wheeler. With Joel Armia in the penalty box, Andrew Copp potted a shorthanded goal, his fifth of the season, to make it 3-0. The goal, which came at 15:50, was assisted on by Scheifele. In the final minute of the period, Patrik Laine netted his 26th of the year on the power play at 19:32 off assists from Byfuglien and Scheifele. Each team had eight shots on goal in the third period with the Jets outscoring the Avalanche 2-1. Nikolaj Ehlers made it a 5-0 game with his 23rd of the year at 5:24 off an assist from Tyler Myers. Wheeler added his second of the game and 16th of the year with a power play marker at 7:54 of the period. Laine and Myers assisted on the goal. Colorado scored with under six minutes to play to ruin Connor Hellebuyck’s shutout bid: he made 30 saves as the Jets were outshot 31-28.
- Panthers are 1-4 in their last 5 vs. a team with a winning record
- Panthers are 1-6 in their last 7 Sunday games
- Jets are 5-1 in their last 6 vs. Eastern Conference
- Jets are 13-3 in their last 16 Sunday games
- Jets are 21-5 in their last 26 home games
Winnipeg is battling tooth and nail with Nashville for the top spot in the Central Division. Both teams were only three points behind Vegas for the top overall record in the Western Conference standings. Florida is likely on the outside looking in for the postseason and it should be interesting to see if Tallon makes any moves to try and make a last ditch run or if he builds around his current nucleus. The Panthers will battle as they have so far on their road trip but the Jets, playing at home, get the upper hand to keep the pressure on Nashville.