SUNRISE, Fla. -- Rookie defenseman Dylan Olsen made his first NHL goal a winning one.
Olsen, playing just his 33rd game in the league, snapped a tie and led the Florida Panthers to a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night at the BB&T Center.
With the score tied 1-1 early in the second period, a crushing hit by Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson behind his own net started a Florida rush.
"I didn't see the hit, but I heard it," Panthers right winger Scottie Upshall said. "I think everyone in the building heard it."
After the hit, Upshall made a slick centering pass to a trailing Olsen, who unleashed an impressive shot for his goal, which beat Ondrej Pavelec high to the stick side.
"(Gudbranson) made a good a hit -- everyone just kind of focused on the hit -- and the puck was just laying there," said Olsen, 22. "We broke it out, had a three-on-two. (Upshall) saw me, made a nice pass. (Center Jonathan Huberdeau) was driving the net and made a nice screen. I saw a corner, and it went in."
Gudbranson, who is Olsen's defensive partner, had a huge night. Besides his big hit, he also had one goal and one assist.
"It was great to see their contributions," Florida goalie Tim Thomas said of the Panthers' young defensemen. "Hopefully, it was good for their confidence."
Thomas, making his 13th straight start, improved to 7-10-1. In the first period, he surpassed 11,000 career saves.
Pavelec, who has been better on the road than at home this season, saw his overall record fall to 10-11-3.
The win marked a positive end to an otherwise disappointing five-game Panthers homestand (2-3).
The Jets (13-13-4) are still on the positive side (3-2) during their season-long six-game road trip. The trip ends Saturday at Tampa Bay.
But the long trip was no excuse, according to coach Claude Noel.
"We didn't play intelligent," he said. "We didn't have very many good players."
Right winger Devin Setoguchi agreed.
"No one likes being .500," he said. "Being mediocre isn't going to get you in the playoffs in this league."
Winnipeg scored first, getting left winger Andrew Ladd's eighth goal of the season with 5:27 elapsed in the first period.
A few minutes later, sirens went off, and it appeared as if the Panthers had tied the score on a goal by Huberdeau. But it was ruled that the Panthers had pushed Pavelec, and the goal was disallowed.
A tying goal did come with 14:02 elapsed in the period on a slap shot by Gudbranson, his second goal of the season.
After Olsen's goal, Florida made it 3-1 with 2:01 left in the second period. Defenseman Mike Weaver put a shot on net. Left winger Tomas Fleischmann tried to deflect it and then tried to put in a rebound. The third time was the charm as he pushed the puck past Pavelec.
The Panthers made it 4-1 with 14:23 left in the third period with a great individual effort from center Nick Bjugstad. First, he tried to deflect the puck for a goal. When that failed, he raced behind the net and scored on a diving wrap-around for his fourth goal of the season. Upshall had one of the assists, his second of the game.
Winnipeg battled back to make it 4-2 on a goal by former Panthers center Olli Jokinen with 7:15 left in the third. Jokinen, still the Panthers' career leader in goals and points, was parked in front when he received a nice pass from behind the net by right winger Devin Setoguchi.
But the Panthers got a goal by right winger Jimmy Hayes with 2:44 left to put the game away. Olsen had the assist to complete his big night.
NOTES: Panthers D Dmitry Kulikov returned to the lineup after a one-game benching. ... Panthers RW Tomas Kopecky, who missed five games with an elbow injury, also returned. ... Jets D Mark Stuart and LW Anthony Peluso reportedly fought during Wednesday's practice. ... The Jets were without RW Michael Frolik (sick), LW Evander Kane (lower-body injury), D Paul Postma (blood clot), D Zach Bogosian (groin) and RW Jim Slater (sports hernia). ... Panthers D Ed Jovanovski (hip) and D Matt Gilroy (lower body) are out. ... The Panthers scratched C Jesse Winchester and D Mike Mottau. ... The Jets scratched D Adam Pardy. ... Jets C prospect Andrew Copp was one of 26 players named to the Team USA preliminary roster for the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships. ... The Panthers' attendance of 10,074 on Tuesday against Ottawa was their lowest since 2007. ... Next up for the Panthers is a road game on Saturday at Detroit.