BY WALTER VILLA
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets
, who had lost here in the BB&T Center just 72 hours earlier, avenged that defeat, beating the Florida Panthers 3-2 on an overtime goal by Dustin Byfuglien
Byfuglien scored with just 40.5 seconds left in overtime.
On Tuesday, the Panthers beat the Jets, 4-1.
This time, though, the Jets came back strong to win their fifth game in the past seven, pushing Winnipeg closer to a top-eight standing and, ultimately, a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Panthers, coming off a 7-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday in which goalie Jacob Markstrom
was pulled after allowing goals on the first two shots he faced, got off to another bad start.
This time, the Jets scored on their first shot, with Andrew Ladd
beating Markstrom for his 13th goal of the season. Ladd took a feed from winger Bryan Little and sped down the left wing, scoring on a puck that barely crossed the line.
With the loss after regulation, Florida ended a five-game stretch of divisional games, getting only three out of a possible 10 points.
The best news for the Panthers was the return of winger Kris Versteeg, who had missed 12 games due to an upper-body injury.
"'Steeger' has been missed," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said an hour before Friday's game. "He's been out a long time. But he's had a lot of time to condition over the past two weeks."
Still, Versteeg's return wasn't enough to stop the Jets, who got a second score with 17:48 gone in the first period on a goal by Clint Wheeler from 25 feet. Ladd got the assist, but Wheeler deserves the bulk of the credit, patiently holding on to the puck until he saw an opening.
Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau scored with 12.9 seconds left in the first quarter to cut Florida's deficit to 2-1. The puck barely crossed the line but -- much like Ladd's opening marker -- the play survived an official review.
The Panthers tied the score with 5:50 gone in the third period, when Tomas Kopecky stole the puck and fed a pass to Shawn Matthias, who buried his sixth goal of the season.
NOTES: With team captain Ed Jovanovski and alternate captain Stephen Weiss out with injuries, Dineen has made some changes. Forwards Kopecky and Tomas Fleischmann are now alternate captains. Defenseman Brian Campbell's status as alternate captain is unchanged. ... Entering Friday, the Panthers' starting goalie has failed to last past the second period in four of the past five games. The most recent example was on Thursday, when Markstrom was replaced after allowing two goals on the first two Capitals shots. His replacement, Scott Clemmensen, wasn't very good, either, allowing five goals the rest of the way. ... The Jets, meanwhile, feel fortunate to have Al Montoya as their backup goalie. He is 3-0 with a 2.33 goals-against average. ... Montoya played so well Thursday that a columnist for the Winnipeg called for him to start Friday against the Panthers -- to no avail. ... The Jets close their four-game road trip Sunday in New Jersey. The Jets return home Tuesday to play Toronto. ... Up next for the Panthers is a home game Sunday against Montreal.
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