Panthers halt five-game slideBy The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Thu, Jan 31, 2013 11:20 PM EST
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Through the first six games of the season, the skidding Panthers had scored just one goal in the third period en route to the NHL's worst record. On Thursday night, Florida (2-5) erupted for five in a tie game -- also overcoming two one-goal deficits -- to snap its five-game losing streak. Right winger Alex Kovalev's power-play goal with 7:23 remaining turned out to be the winner as the Panthers beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-3 in front of 15,731 at the BB&T Center. "We worked really hard for it," said Kovalev, who scored his second goal of the season. "We started last game doing a lot of good things out there even though we lost the game. We knew we were in the right direction, and tonight we knew if we put the same effort like we did in Tampa (on Tuesday) and add a bit more, it was going to pay off. I think that's what happened." Kovalev was given plenty of time to wind up his snap shot to the goalie's glove side, set up by the last of center Tomas Fleischmann's three assists as well as right winger Tomas Kopecky. Former Panther Olli Jokinen had been penalized for tripping. Center Jonathan Huberdeau tacked on an insurance goal -- his second goal of the season -- less than three minutes later. Kopecky capped the scoring with an empty-netter for his second goal of the year at 18:32. Winnipeg (3-3-1), which came into the game tied with Calgary for the fewest power plays allowed (16), was penalized nine times. "We just didn't play to win the game," said Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who made 28 saves. "The penalties kill us. You can't expect to win if you take those penalties. It's very simple. They played a little bit better than us." Defender Tobias Enstrom's first goal of the season had given the Jets a 3-2 lead with 12:22 left in the game. After a few failed clearing attempts by the Panthers, Enstrom connected on a one-timer off left winger Evander Kane's cross. Last season, Kane led Winnipeg with eight points in four games against the Panthers. But for the second time in the period, Florida evened the score -- with its second power-play goal of the night -- on center Peter Mueller's rebound off defender Filip Kuba's shot from in front of the blue line. "The guys were talking on the bench, 'Don't get down, stay focused, stick to the game plan,'" said Mueller, who earned the game's second star. "Little things, getting pucks in deep. This is the identity of this team. Work down hard and work through the defensemen. That's what we did this whole game, and it's nice to see the outcome." Jokinen's goal 1:23 into the third period put the Jets ahead 2-1. Jokinen served as Florida's team captain from 2005 to 2008, playing in 567 career games over seven seasons. Right winger Blake Wheeler intercepted Fleischmann's backwards pass to a teammate and centered to Jokinen, who finished for his fourth point in the past three games (2 goals, 2 assists). Two minutes later, right winger Kris Versteeg's first goal of the season on a one-timer in front of the net on a pass from Fleischmann and defender Dmitry Kulikov knotted the score. "The problem is you can't take bad penalties in a key time when you've got two leads," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "You can slice it how you want. We took a penalty behind their net. We've got the game in control, but it's a 60-minute game and it came apart in the third period and they scored three power-play goals." After a scoreless first period, Florida capitalized on a 5-on-3 advantage, taking a 1-0 lead at 5:14 in the second on defender Brian Campbell's shot. Kopecky battled for position with defender Ron Hainsey in front of the net, effectively shielding the goalie. It was Campbell's team-high third goal of the season, assisted by Fleischmann and Kopecky, with eight seconds remaining on a two-man advantage. It marked both Florida's first lead and power-play goal in 11 periods, dating to the first period on Jan. 24 against the Ottawa Senators. The Panthers had received a four-minute power play less than two minutes into the period on defender Grant Clitsome's high stick that drew blood from Huberdeau's mouth. Defender Mark Stuart went to the box for a delay of game penalty 36 seconds later. Winnipeg tied it at 1 on Clitsome's even-strength goal -- his first goal of the season -- assisted by left winger Andrew Ladd and defender Paul Postma at 16:11 in the second period. Ladd's pass across the Florida zone set up Clintsome's shot, which passed Jose Theodore's glove side. "We're still not out of it -- let's not kid ourselves -- that was only one win," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "We're still some way from getting back to respectability. We have a long way to go. Tonight was a good step. We've been looking for effort and emotion, and I think we saw that in our game tonight." NOTES: Center Marcel Goc made his season debut on the starting line for the Panthers after being activated on Wednesday. Goc, who had 11 goals and 16 assists in 57 games in his first season with Florida last year, had been nursing an ankle injury he suffered while playing in Germany during the lockout. The 29-year-old enters his eighth NHL season. ... Panthers defender Erik Gudbranson, who was on the non-roster/suspended list for injuring his shoulder in a non-hockey-related incident during the offseason, was sent to San Antonio in the American Hockey League. Center Mike Santorelli -- a healthy scratch on Tuesday -- joined him at the minor league affiliate. Meanwhile, center Stephen Weiss (groin) and captain Ed Jovanovski (knee) did not play against the Jets. Weiss has missed the past four games. ... Up next, the Jets cap a three-game road swing on the second night of a back-to-back in Tampa Bay before hosting Florida on Tuesday. ... The Panthers fly north for a four-game road trip that starts Sunday in Buffalo.
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