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Frolik, Jets topple Panthers

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Michael Frolik won a Stanley Cup as a dependable defensive player in Chicago, but his scoring touch is bursting through for the Winnipeg Jets.

The talented right winger, acquired from the Blackhawks in an offseason trade, scored his ninth goal of the season and set up another by left winger Evander Kane, also with his ninth, to propel the Jets to a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night at the MTS Centre.

The Jets halted a six-game winless skid at home and snapped the Panthers' five-game winning streak.

The trio of Frolik, Kane and rookie center Mark Scheifele combined for six points and gave the Panthers fits all night long.

Kane joined the line two games ago when he returned from an injury on the same night forward Matt Halischuk broke his arm.

"I think it's worked out really well," said Winnipeg coach Claude Noel. "They seem to know where they are going. All three of them have been good.

"Frolik is defensive, but he makes plays. He is a smart player, and he makes things happen. He is a sneaky, smart player. He quietly goes about it and doesn't get a lot of accolades. But he has played well."

Five different players scored for the Jets (16-16-5), who had not won at the MTS Centre since a shootout decision over the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 15.

Right-winger Blake Wheeler, with his 12th of the year, and blue liners Jacob Trouba and Tobias Enstrom, with just their second and third goals, respectively, also scored for Winnipeg, now 8-8-4 in its own building this season. The club plays a pair of games on the road -- Sunday in Vancouver and Monday in Edmonton -- before taking a few days off for the Christmas break.

Centers Shawn Matthias and Nick Bjugstad replied for the Panthers, who trailed 3-1 and 5-2 at the period breaks.

Florida (14-18-5), coming off road victories in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, prior to the stop in Winnipeg, head home for five straight contests at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Used primarily as a checking winger and penalty killer in Chicago, Frolik scored just three goals in 45 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. And he recorded just five in 63 games the year before that.

But the native of Kladno, Czech Republic has regained the touch he flashed in the early part of his career when he registered back-to-back 21-goals seasons with the Panthers (2008-09 and 2009-10).

"Who doesn't, right?" Frolik said, when asked if he's enjoying his role as a point producer. He has 12 assists as well this season.

"It's getting better. I'm feeling more comfortable here, getting better every game. It can still be better. I never want to quit, and I just try to improve my game and work hard."

Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec wasn't particularly busy Friday night, stopping 21 shots for his first win in his last six starts.

Florida netminder Jacob Markstrom made 27 saves.

The Jets scored on a 4-on-4 situation and also on a pair of power plays to build a two-goal cushion after a wild first period that featured a fight and nine minor penalties between the former Southeast Division rivals.

Wheeler said after an ugly loss to the Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday night, the Jets had plenty of motivation to come out firing.

"We put an emphasis on the start tonight. It was huge for us," he said. "Our group was chomping at the bit to get going again. Anytime you have a tough game like we did in Buffalo, you take a couple of days to stew over it. Sometimes, you're almost foaming at the mouth to get back out there, and I think our group was ready to play tonight and excited to play and get the bad taste out of our mouth."

The Panthers, at times, really looked sluggish -- a byproduct of playing Thursday night in Ottawa and then arriving in Winnipeg at 3 a.m.

Florida coach Peter Horachek gave his club a bit of a pass after the defeat.

"This was our back-to-back situation getting in late. We tried to do our best and learn from this," he said. "They came out really hard and basically won it in the first period.

"We are playing better hockey when we are rested. Tonight wasn't great, but you're not going to win every game. We won three out of four on the road. For us, it's moving forward. We've won some games, we're moving up. We're learning how to win and learning how to handle situations."

NOTES: Jets D Zach Bogosian returned to the lineup Friday after missing 15 games with a groin injury. ... Florida RW Brad Boyes netted his 35th and 36th career shootout goals last week and ranks first among active NHL players. He's just one up on Minnesota Wild LW Zach Parise and two ahead of RW Radim Vrbata of the Phoenix Coyotes. ... Veteran Winnipeg C Olli Jokinen played in 1,123 NHL games, just over half (567) with the Panthers from 2000-08. He led the team in scoring in five of the seven seasons he played in Florida. ... The Panthers' top two centers are still very young. C Aleksander Barkov is only 18, while C Nick Bjugstad is the elder statesman of the two at 21. ... Dead last for much of the season, the Jets' power play is now 27th in the NHL after some success the last two weeks. D Dustin Byfuglien leads the club with 12 power-play points.
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