A Healthy Bergenheim A Must for Florida

By Bill Whitehead

Compared to recent offseasons, especially two years ago when general manager Dale Tallon was involved in a spending spree, the Florida Panthers had a relatively quiet time of it when it came to transactions following a very disappointing and mostly unhealthy time of it last year.

The club acquired forward Bobby Butler on June 14 from Nashville, a frequent trading partner, for defenseman T.J. Brennan, who showed promise offensively last season in his brief time with Florida after being acquired from Buffalo. Butler, a University of New Hampshire alum, hasn’t matched the lofty numbers he posted in a short 2010-11 campaign when he scored 10 goals in 36 games for Ottawa.

During free agency, Florida broke out the wallet like a Lotto winner who had hit just four numbers. The team couldn’t reach terms and lost longtime center Stephen Weiss to Detroit but did re-sign Shawn Matthias, who started to live up to expectations last season. The Panthers also signed defensemen Mike Mottau and Matt Gilroy, plus forwards Joey Crabb, Jesse Winchester, Jon Matsumoto and Scott Gomez. The moves could be as much for depth at San Antonio as much as Panthers’ production, but Gomez and Crabb should see a good amount of ice time in Florida.

But while the summer has been fairly quiet and not as eventful as the past, the Panthers saw a familiar face on the ice last week, one who was instrumental in helping the team reach the playoffs two years ago — Sean Bergenheim. The Finnish winger had surgery in March but has resumed skating after a variety of hip, abdominal and groin injuries. At one point he was off the ice for nine months. While he may not be 100 percent ready when camp opens, his return to the Panthers sometime early in the season would be a boost for a club that could use some contributions from the third line.

Two years ago Tallon received his fair share of criticism for signing Bergenheim, a free agent who was coming off a sensational post-season for Tampa Bay, from Versus NHL analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. While writing for NHL Hot Stove, I offered this piece in October, 2011, basically saying that Bergenheim should take the criticism to heart and work the words to his advantage.

His work ethic and high-energy play put Milbury and Jones in their place.

The hard-working left winger posted 17 goals and six assists in 62 games in his first season with Florida. When the playoffs started against New Jersey, the Panthers, during pre-game introductions, displayed Milbury’s and Jones’ comments on the then-Bank Atlantic Center scoreboard — it’s no longer the BAC, and that scoreboard is history, too — and Bergenheim responded. He scored three goals and added three assists against the Devils, including Florida’s first goal.

That’s what he brings to the table — hard-nosed, intense play that often results in the 29-year-old crashing the net or hanging around it for a loose puck. He honed that style with the Lightning under former coach Guy Boucher, and it’s intensity that the Panthers could use.

Cats fans can hope for other unrestricted free agents the Panthers may sign late in the process. Brad Boyes tallied 35 points in 48 games for the Islanders last year and seemingly regained his scoring touch. Mason Raymond has the blazing speed Tallon really likes but, hey, so did Michael Grabner. Chad LaRose could add offense and some grit, both which would come in handy. Former Red Wings Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner also remain unsigned and bring different assets to a club. And while Toronto and Nazem Kadri are having difficulties in meeting the 22-year-old’s contract demands, I don’t know that Tallon really wants to go there. Also, Florida decided not to re-sign Peter Mueller.

Truth is, I wouldn’t expect any of those to be suiting up for the Panthers. Instead, the focus should be on what’s here right now.

Technically, Bergenheim’s not one of Tallon’s recent acquisitions, but a healthy No. 20 back on the ice who can give the Panthers 15 to 20 goals in 65 games or so would likely do just fine.

Maybe even better than anything obtained during the offseason as part of Florida’s free agent non-frenzy.

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Huberdeau Named Calder Trophy Finalist

By Bill Whitehead

In the closing minutes of that slugfest in Ottawa Sunday night — and slugfest might be too tame of a description — Brandon Prust crosschecked Cory Conacher. The former Tampa Bay Lightning fan favorite skated away, but Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher, likely angry as his team was on the receiving end of a 6-1 beatdown by the Senators, took the opportunity to fight with the former Canisius forward.

It was a three-second clash between two high-profile rookies, both Calder Memorial Trophy candidates all year, and the battle for the top first-year player was far more intense. Is it as intense as the 232 minutes produced in Game 3 of the Montreal-Ottawa series? Maybe.

The NHL announced its three finalists for the Calder on Monday, and Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau was among the trio who made the cut. Huberdeau, 19, being a finalist is no surprise. After all, we all saw him set the tone early by scoring against Carolina on the first shot of his NHL career.

Huby

Huberdeau’s numbers stack up well with the rest of the Calder competition, which just so happens to be Gallagher and Chicago Blackhawk forward Brandon Saad. Huberdeau was durable, playing in all 48 games for the injury-riddled Panthers. He was productive, too — tallying 14 goals and 17 assists, which tied him as the league’s top scoring rookie with Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov, last year’s first overall pick. The Quebec native, along with Kid Line teammates Drew Shore and Peter Mueller, gave Florida an offensive spark that was its best weapon on most nights. Huberdeau, the only NHLer to score on two penalty shots, also had three assists in the season finale in Tampa and created a few highlight-reel moments that should help him in the voting. Just ask Ilya Bryzgalov.

HubyPS

As for Huberdeau’s competition, both have benefited from playing on far better teams and surrounded by better talent. Gallagher, a 21-year-old winger, had 15 goals and 13 assists in 44 games on a Montreal club that was very good for most of the regular season, though they struggled on defense at the end and are currently being manhandled by Ottawa through three games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. Saad, 20, had the good fortune of playing on a stacked team that was the best in the NHL during  the regular season. A native of Pittsburgh, Saad had 10 goals and 17 assists in 46 games.

Gallagher

Saad

The Calder choice will be a close fight and discussed much longer than the brief bout between Conacher and Gallagher, but perhaps native son Huberdeau can garner some of the Quebec media votes away from Gallagher to claim the prize as the league’s top rookie. It would be a nice reward, along with the No. 2 overall pick next month, to cap off a Florida season that was downright wretched.

With what’s on the horizon for the Panthers in terms of young talent — names like Bjugstad, Petrovic, Trocheck, Rau, Grimaldi and whoever gets chosen June 30 in Newark —  Huberdeau might just be starting a new Florida tradition over the next few years.

Cats Looking to Win Series from Penguins

By Bill Whitehead

With their 7-2 drubbing courtesy of the Jets left behind in Manitoba, the Florida Panthers will take to the ice tonight for home game No. 22 of 24, and they will be attempting to do something they have already accomplished at BB&T Center — beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, which they did, 6-4, on Feb. 26.

Florida (13-21-6, 32 pts.) stands in stark contrast to the Penguins, who earlier this week, to no one’s surprise, clinched the Atlantic Division crown in a 5-3 win at Carolina. Pittsburgh (31-10-0, 62 pts.) still has the competitive edge despite clinching, though, and will need it in the remaining seven games. The Penguins hold a five-point lead over Montreal and six-point edge on Boston in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and both of the Northeast Division teams have a game in hand over the Penguins. Pittsburgh also trails Chicago by four points for the overall No. 1 spot in the league, and the Blackhawks also have an extra game to play.

Some of the numbers between Pittsburgh and Florida are striking. As far as goals for and against, simply invert the numbers. The Penguins have tallied an NHL-best 138 goals this season, while the Panthers have yielded a league-high 139. The Pens haven’t been too charitable, allowing just 101 goals to the 98 netted by the Cats. And this stat sums up the clubs’ season in a nutshell: Pittsburgh didn’t lose in March, posting a 15-game winning streak; Florida has won 13 games…on the season.

The three-time Stanley Cup champions have been playing without Sidney Crosby since the captain broke his jaw and lost multiple teeth after being hit by a slap shot from teammate Brooks Orpik on March 30. Still the Hart Trophy favorite, No. 87 was recently given clearance to fly with the team to Florida, and he was in the press box during the club’s 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Crosby, who isn’t skating yet, will join the team in Sunrise in their effort to win the season series from Florida (Pittsburgh won at home, 3-1, on Feb. 22), though there’s no time table for his return. Also, defenseman Kris Letang (broken toe, groin) returned to the lineup against the Lightning; Letang (3-25-28) has missed 12 games this season with numerous ailments but still is third in scoring among defensemen behind P.K. Subban and Ryan Suter. Fellow blueliner Paul Martin (broken hand) has resumed skating.

Panthers fans will be seeing some new faces wearing the black and gold. Pittsburgh’s Ray Shero was the most active general manager near the trade deadline and made it known his intention is for his club to win the Stanley Cup now. He acquired forwards Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen and Brenden Morrow, plus added rugged defenseman Douglas Murray. While Jokinen appears to be the minor acquisition, Shero was able to trade with Carolina for Jokinen, who was placed on waivers last month. By trading for him instead, Shero put the Hurricanes on the hook for a portion of Jokinen’s contract.

For Florida, Tomas Fleischmann and T.J. Brennan both had a goal and an assist against Winnipeg, and Brennan has been impressive since being acquired from Buffalo. Fleischmann has a seven-game point streak and 11 points in his last 12 games. The Panthers will head to the metropolitan New York area after the game, embarking on a four-game road trip beginning on Long Island on Tuesday against the playoff-primed New York Islanders.

The puck drops tonight at 7:30 in the final meeting between the two teams and will be broadcast on Sun Sports and 560 WQAM.

FRIDAY NIGHT ‘LIGHTS: In Calgary, the Flames allowed a late goal by Phoenix to force overtime, but Mark Giordano’s shot from the high slot with 23.1 seconds left in the extra session beat goalie Mike Smith and lifted Calgary to the win. The victory pulled the Flames out of a three-way tie for last in the league standings with Florida and Colorado and into a tie with Carolina with 34 points…In Newark, the Ottawa Senators continued their surprisingly strong season, despite playing without stars Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson, by beating the New Jersey Devils 2-0 behind a 33-save showing by former Panther goalie Craig Anderson. The ninth consecutive loss by the Devils and ex-Florida coach Pete DeBoer likely ended the team’s quest for the playoffs. New Jersey, who ousted Florida in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last year, trails ninth-place Winnipeg and the eighth-place New York Rangers by four points…

Game Day Preview: Florida at Tampa Bay

By Bill Whitehead

Two words jump out when describing the Florida Panthers’ play over the last two games — “winning streak.” Others come to mind, too, like “gritty hustle,” “thrilling comebacks,” “timely goals” and “finally finishing.” But for now, over a 36-game period when the words haven’t been said often, the mention of a winning streak takes precedence. Granted, it’s only two games, and Florida (11-19-6) had to work like crazy at home to secure both wins.

The Buffalo game appeared to be headed toward a shootout loss after Jason Pominville scored to open the shootout session and Peter Mueller missed, but Jonathan Huberdeau’s fake and shot, which was originally ruled no-goal, did beat goalie Ryan Miller. Jacob Markstrom stopped three of four shots, and Mike Santorelli scored the game-winner by deking Miller silly. The win over New Jersey was authored by Scottie Upshall and Shawn Matthias, then Dmitry Kulikov added the final touches.

So what’s there to cheer for now? Or better yet, what are the rewards of sitting through a brutal, thankfully shortened season?

First, Huberdeau winning the Calder Trophy as the top rookie would be an outstanding achievement for the 19-year-old and the organization. It’s easy to make a case for Huberdeau, too. He leads all rookies in goals and scoring with 13 markers and 25 total points and is second in shots with 96. His chief competition will come from Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher (11-10-21) and Tampa Bay’s Cory Conacher (9-15-24). Both Gallagher and Conacher are great stories, sure, but Huberdeau has done more with much less, especially than Conacher, who plays on a line with super talents Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. It’s not a knock on the linemates of Huberdeau — Mueller and Drew Shore — but they’re simply not Stamkos and St. Louis.

Also, the incredible play of Matthias is worth watching. The next reward the Ontario forward should get isn’t a goal against some Eastern Conference goalie, but instead a new contract from GM Dale Tallon. A restricted free agent, Matthias has truly proven himself this season and has played strong when most have struggled at times. His drive to the goal and relentless energy have been a constant every game, and it’s that type of play Florida fans need to see out of No. 18 the next three or four seasons.

So there — two things to root for in this dismal year, which only has 12 more games left. The draft will be here before you know it.

But that’s another issue for another time.

THE GREAT EIGHT–TEEN: It takes more than a handful of words to describe what Matthias has accomplished over his last 16 games. There has been hustle galore, plus highlight-reel goals. You want a hustle goal? Ask the Boston Bruins about that diving steal and shot past Tuukka Rask. You want a goal that will have you rewinding a couple of times to figure out how it happened? Ask Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart, who was turned inside-out by Matthias then saw the Florida forward rip a shot by Ondrej Pavelec. In all, Matthias has scored 11 times in his last 16 games and leads the Cats with 14 goals, including scoring in three straight games. Matthias joined Pavel Bure as the only Panther to score 11-plus goals in a month; Bure netted 15 in March of 2001.

TUESDAY’S GONE (WITH THE WINS): The second day of the work week hasn’t been good to the Panthers when they take to the road. Florida is 1-3-1 in Tuesday road games. The lone win was at Carolina in a 4-1 win on March 19 to begin its five-game road swing.

STAT THAT MATTERS: For the third time this season, the Panthers will attempt to achieve a three-game winning streak tonight. Florida won consecutive games on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, at home against Winnipeg and at Buffalo on Super Bowl Sunday. The club also won consecutive road games at Carolina and the New York Rangers two weeks ago. But that’s been it, as both times the streak ended in the next games — both on the road.

Florida’s shootout winner over Tampa Bay last year in its home-opener:

Florida (11-19-6, 28 pts.) at Tampa Bay Lightning(15-18-1, 31 pts.)
Tues., Apr. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Tampa Bay Times Forum — Tampa, Fla.

BY THE NUMBERS

FLA                     vs.           TB

19.3% (12th)        Power play       18.0% (16th)
74.1% (30th)        Penalty kill        82.9% (10th)
2.39  (27th)        Goals per game   3.21  (3rd)
3.44  (30th)        Goals against    3.00  (23rd)
0.64  (30th)        5-on-5 goals F/A 1.13  (7th)
49.8% (19th)        Faceoffs         51.4% (7th)
30.2  (11th)        Shots per gm     26.5  (28th)
31.0  (23rd)        Shots vs. per    29.4  (18th)

PANTHERS’ PACE

Florida has 28 points in 36 games: 37.3 over 48 games.

LOCAL TV BROADCAST
Fox Sports Florida, 7:30 p.m.
Steve Goldstein (PxP), Bill Lindsay (Color)
LOCAL RADIO
560 WQAM, 7:30 p.m.
Randy Moller (PxP)

Florida 5, Buffalo 4 (SO)

By Bill Whitehead

SUNRISE — Jonathan Huberdeau and Jacob Markstrom gave the Florida Panthers life in the shootout Thursday night. Mike Santorelli took it one step further.

Huberdeau tied the shootout session in the second round, goaltender Markstrom stopped three out of four Buffalo shots and Santorelli won the game by beating Sabres netminder Ryan Miller in the fourth round in Florida’s 5-4 victory to snap a four-game home losing streak before 17,044 fans at BB&T Center.

Jason Pominville scored on Markstrom in the shootout’s first shot, but Huberdeau, who scored his team-leading 13th goal in the third period, faked Miller and put a shot that appeared to travel along the goal line and not cross it, prompting the officials to call it no goal. However, a review showed the knob of Miller’s stick pushing the puck over the line entirely, and Huberdeau was awarded the marker to tie it at 1-1.

Drew Stafford, Shawn Matthias and Steve Ott all missed in attempts to potentially win the game before Santorelli stepped up. He skated in and completely deked Miller, who sprawled in the crease in a last-ditch effort to make the save. Santorelli moved to the right and easily flipped the game-winning shot over Miller — the Florida forward’s ninth shootout goal in 18 career attempts.

Florida made multiple-goal leads stand up against Carolina and the New York Rangers on its recent five-game road trip but couldn’t do the same against a Buffalo team that lost 2-1 at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Florida held a 2-0 edge in the first minute of the second period but saw the Sabres (13-16-5) erase the deficit against Markstrom.

The teams went back and forth in a frantic third period with Florida battling back twice to tie the game.

With the Panthers trailing 3-2, the red-hot Matthias left the penalty box and scored his second goal of the night and ninth in his last 15 games by forcing the puck off the stick of Kevin Porter right after Buffalo’s power play expired. Peter Mueller immediately fired on Miller, then Matthias scooped up the rebound and scored his career-high 12th to knot it at 3-3.

Marcus Foligno tipped in a shot by Jordan Leopold for a 4-3 Buffalo lead, but Mueller found Huberdeau streaking through the slot and fed the Florida rookie as the Panthers tied it yet again at the 13:51 mark. Huberdeau, who broke a nine-goal goal drought, leads all NHL rookies with 13 goals and also added an assist.

The Panthers (10-19-6) controlled much of the game’s early play and finally capitalized just under four minutes into the contest.

Huberdeau lost a faceoff to Tyler Ennis in the left circle in front of Miller, but he and linemate Peter Mueller outfought Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr for the puck behind the goal. The rookie gained control and passed to defenseman Tyson Strachan, who fired a long shot on Miller. Matthias corralled the juicy rebound, skated patiently through the low slot and beat Miller with a high shot.

Florida added another just 43 seconds into the second period after Ville Leino’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty carried over. Tomas Fleischmann put away a blind, backhand pass from Tomas Kopecky for a power-play goal, his eighth, and a 2-0 lead.

The Sabres took advantage of the remainder of the period, though, scoring three times in the last 18:34 to take a 3-2 lead into third.

Nathan Gerbe scored his fourth goal — his third against Florida — off a deflected shot beyond the right circle. Just over 13 minutes later, Dmitry Kulikov’s clearing attempt from behind Markstrom caromed off Ott. Andrej Sekera blasted a shot that beat Markstrom to tie the game at 2-2. Christian Ehrhoff’s shot deflected in off Drew Stafford to give the forward his fifth goal and Buffalo a 3-2 lead with only 56 seconds left in the period.

“I thought (we) were a little bit undeniable tonight,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “Even though we got down at the end of the second, we were down at times in the third period, I felt like there was a feeling on the bench that, you know what, we owed our fans here at home, we owed ourselves. We didn’t want to make it that entertaining, but we’ll take it.”

Mueller and Brian Campbell each had a pair of assists for Florida, who won the season series over Buffalo. Both Markstrom (4-7-1) and Miller (11-14-5) faced 40 shots and made 36 saves.

The Sabres’ lone win was a 4-3 shootout victory on Feb. 28 in South Florida while the Panthers won 4-3 on Super Bowl Sunday in Buffalo. The Panthers had not won at home since a 4-1 triumph over Winnipeg on March 5 yet won two out of five games on the road trip.

Before the game, Florida announced that team captain Ed Jovanovski would have hip surgery next Friday but also added the procedure wouldn’t be career threatening for the 36-year-old defenseman.

“Obviously, it’s Jovo’s decision,” said Florida general manager Dale Tallon. “He’s the one that has to make the final call on that. Nobody knows his body better than he does. I have every confidence that he will do whatever it takes to get back to playing. It’s been a tough year for all of us, but we’ll get through it and we’ll look forward to moving on and getting better.”

No Hiding Peter Mueller’s Emotions

By Bill Whitehead

SUNRISE — Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was noticeably absent on the trip down the elevator last Sunday following another tough defeat, but one Panther — Tallon’s finest free-agent offseason acquisition — was still around at the final destination, the team’s dressing room.

While many fans in red were upset after the 5-2 loss to Montreal, no Panther embodied disappointment and frustration more than forward Peter Mueller. Jack Skille, Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom were among a smattering of Florida players who stayed around the dressing room, but the most obvious was Mueller, seated alone on his side where most of the defensemen and a few forwards have lockers. The Bloomington, Minn., native looked like he had just left the ice, in full gear except for his jersey and sporting a Panthers Reebok hat.

No good reason existed for Mueller to be there; in fact, most of his teammates had high-tailed it. He logged 15:49 of ice time in the loss, registering two of Florida’s paltry 16 shots against Montreal backup goalie Peter Budaj in a game in which Florida was outclassed and outworked, despite Montreal having played less than 24 hours ago and ending a five-game road trip. And after a fine start, Mueller hasn’t tallied a goal since scoring two at Philadelphia on Feb. 21. Like most who donned the home red, his play against the Habs would likely have been described as bad, mediocre, inferior. Take your pick of adjectives that mean “not quite good enough.”

So why was he there, ultimately having to face the music from the media who were looking for anyone to talk to?

I think it was because he was bothered by losing — again and again and again, over and over, ad nauseum, quiet room. Some players may be hard to figure out, but not Mueller. He wears his emotions on his jersey — which he wasn’t wearing — but you didn’t have to be the Amazing Kreskin or the Amazing Criswell (Is it a requirement to be amazing to be a mentalist?) to surmise what Mueller was thinking about under all that head of hair. He was troubled, despondent after losing to the Habs in front of a pro-Canadien crowd. Losing is gradually wearing on everyone in that room, and it has the feel of those last few games of the Pete DeBoer Era, but Mueller seems to take it harder than most, or in the least, shows it more.

But there he was, as if mulling over what he could have done differently in another wasted chance for his team to win and…caring about it. And because of that care level, in addition to his plus-skill and hard-working effort he possesses, Tallon doesn’t even really need to give a second look at or think twice about re-signing the 24-year-old Mueller, an RFA like Skille, Matthias and Markstrom.

Tallon should just go ahead and do it. A two- or three-year deal will be the good news Mueller’s needs and give Florida’s faithful, who have watched the club struggle on the ice, a sense of something going right within the organization — a feeling that hasn’t happened much lately.

Mueller’s comments after the Montreal loss:

Jets’ Pavelec Shuts Down Panthers in 3-2 Overtime Win

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.