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Jets 7, Panthers 2

The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets registered their third consecutive home victory, knocking off the Florida Panthers, 7-2, on Thursday night.

Jets' left-winger Evander Kane scored a pair of goals -- his 15th and 16th of the season -- while Aaron Gagnon, Andrew Ladd, Grant Clitsome, Dustin Byfuglien and Chris Thornburn contributed goals as well.

T.J. Brennan and Tomas Fleischmann scored for Florida.

The Jets (21-19-2) are a perfect 3-0 midway through a six-game home stand -- a stretch that should go a long way toward determining their playoff future in the clogged Eastern Conference. Winnipeg is tied with the New York Rangers for eighth in the conference. Both teams have 44 points, but the Rangers have two games in hand.

Winnipeg is also two points back of the Washington Capitals in the race for the Southeast Division crown.

The Jets now enjoy their first four-day break of the season and don't play again until Tuesday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at the MTS Centre.

Florida (13-21-6) hosts the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

The first period started with a flurry as the Jets and Panthers ignored defense and went run and gun, scoring a pair of goals apiece through the first six minutes.

Gagnon, with his second of the year, opened the scoring on a deflection for Winnipeg, but Brennan replied for Florida just 52 seconds later with his third goal of the year. Kane scored just 18 second later to put the hosts ahead, but the lead would last just 87 seconds as Fleischmann fired his ninth for Florida. Ladd converted a nifty pass from Bryan Little at 12:42 for his 16th, and Winnipeg led 3-2 after 20 minutes of what looked a whole lot like road hockey.

The Jets put the game out of reach in the second period with three goals in a span of 1:53. Clitsome, Byfuglien and Kane all scored, chasing Jacob Markstrom from the Florida net. He was replaced by Scott Clemmensen.

Clemmensen stopped 10 shots in just under three minutes to begin the third period, blanking the Jets on a two-man advantage.

Thorburn scored just his second goal of the year on a deflection midway through the third.

Jets' goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 25 saves, while Clemmensen and Markstrom combined to stop 28 shots.

NOTES: Florida defenseman Eric Gudbranson received a five-minute match penalty for an illegal hit to the head on Bryan Little near the end of the second period. The Jet center left the ice bleeding from the face and headed straight for the dressing room, but returned in the third period. ... Winnipeg scored 10 second-period goals in its last three home games. ... The Panthers were missing eight regulars from their lineup Thursday. The team has been decimated by injuries, with 209 total man games lost this season. Goalie Jose Theodore, blueliners Ed Jovanovski and Mike Weaver, and forwards Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss are among the wounded. ... The Jets played without defenseman Tobias Enstrom and centre Nik Antropov, both hurt. ... Offense from Little means big things for Winnipeg. In games since Feb. 19, when he has at least a point, the Jets have gone 13-0-0. He had a pair of assists Thursday. ... Florida center Jonathan Huberdeau ranks first among rookies in goals (13) and points (27). ... Mike Santorelli battled his former team for the first time Thursday. The speedy Winnipeg forward was claimed off waivers from Florida on April 3. ... Panthers' forward George Parros eclipsed the 1,000 penalty-minute mark for his NHL career with a minor and double-minor in the second period.

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