By Bill Whitehead
SUNRISE — A night after being sequestered in the nation’s capital, the Florida Panthers faced something else that shut them down on Friday night — Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
Pavelec made 38 saves and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien outworked the Panthers in scoring the game-winning goal in overtime as the Jets finished their Sunshine State swing with a 3-2 win over Florida in front of 16,442 fans at BB&T Center.
Byfuglien collected the puck behind the Florida goal in the 4-on-4 extra session, skated around the left circle while warding off Panthers’ checking efforts and fired a shot past goalie Jacob Markstrom with 41 seconds remaining in overtime for the win.
The Jets (12-11-1) redeemed themselves from a 4-1 loss to the Panthers on Tuesday to begin the southern swing. Winnipeg was a 2-1 winner in Tampa on Thursday night, with the biggest moment coming when they killed off a full 5-on-3 power play by the Lightning. Florida was routed Thursday in Washington as the Capitals blitzed Markstrom and backup netminder Scott Clemmensen early and often, breezing to a 7-1 win while Winnipeg was beating the slumping Bolts.
Predictably, Florida (7-12-6) looked like a team that arrived home at 3 a.m. Friday and was sluggish. The Panthers outshot Winnipeg 11-7 in the first 20 minutes, but the club failed in all of its attempts but one in beating Pavelec, who they defeated in the Tuesday win.
Against the NHL’s worst penalty kill, Florida was 0-for-4 on the power play, including a great chance with nine minutes left in regulation after Zach Bogosian’s holding penalty. Pavelec was at his best, though, making his best saves on two shots by Peter Mueller — a redirection and a backhanded shot in close that the Czech goalie spread and made a pad save on.
“He made some really good saves but we played well and we fought back,” said Jack Skille. “It showed our character in the third period, we were playing responsible on the fore check and the defensive zone so that’s really one we’d like to have.”
Florida dropped to 0-5 in overtime games and are 1-1 in shootouts. In fall, five of the six losses after regulation have come at BB&T Center.
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen’s post-game interview:
Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau scored his team-leading 12th goal with 13 seconds remaining in the first period to trim Winnipeg’s lead to 2-1. The Jets took the lead on markers by Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler, beating Markstrom for their 13th and eighth goals, respectively.
Huberdeau, who has scored goals in all four games against the Jets, leads all NHL rookies in goals and ranks just second to Tampa Bay’s Cory Conacher in points. On Friday Huberdeau, 19, joined Teemu Selanne, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin as the only active players who scored at least 12 goals in their first 25 NHL games.
Shawn Matthias scored off a backhanded pass from Tomas Kopecky 5:50 in to the third period to tie it at 2-2. Kopecky kept the puck in the offensive zone after Winnipeg’s Grant Clitsome failed to clear it, leading to a 2-on-1 opportunity and the first assist on Matthias’s sixth goal.