Panthers’ comeback comes up short, but Florida still gets crucial overtime point vs. Jets

Comebacks have been a rare occurrence for the Florida Panthers this year and so it was fitting for one Saturday to start in the most unlikely of places.

In the first minute of the third period with his Panthers down by two goals, Marc Staal charged to the net, reeled in a pass from Eric Staal and flipped the puck past Connor Hellebuyck. The rally didn’t end with a win, but the defenseman’s third goal of the season was the spark Florida needed to do the bare minimum: A 5-4, overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets keeps the Panthers’ postseason aspirations alive with 15 games left in the regular season.

Although it fell short of pulling off a second multi-goal come-from-behind wins in as many days, Florida picked up a point by erasing a 4-2 third-period deficit and getting the game to overtime, and now sit just three points out of postseason position.

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Superstar right wing Matthew Tkachuk capped off the comeback with 13:36 left in the second period when he scored on a rebound on a 4-on-3 power play, and then star goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Connor Hellebuyck traded saves for the rest of regulation to set up a five-minute, 3-on-3 overtime period. With 28.2 left in the five-minute session, sharpshooting center Mark Scheifele scored his second goal of the game to get the Jets an overtime win in front of 16,340 at FLA Live Arena.

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As important as the point was, the loss still amounted to something of a missed opportunity for the Panthers.

Florida (33-27-6) outshot Winnipeg, 48-27, and had a 38-24 advantage in scoring chances and 26-13 edge in high-danger chances. The Panthers missed multiple shots on empty nets in the third period and overtime, with forward Sam Reinhart firing wide from the doorstep with a chance to end the game OT. Florida only gave up two 5-on-5 goals, with penalties the primary culprit in the early, ultimately costly deficit.


The Panthers controlled the vast majority of possession time, especially during 5-on-5 play, and jumped out to an 8-1 lead in shots before committing their first penalty. They even started their first penalty kill by generating one more scoring chance, only to lose track of Blake Wheeler on the Jets’ rush in the other direction, letting the Winnipeg right wing tee up sharpshooting center Mark Scheifele for an easy goal from the slot.

When the Jets (36-26-3) pushed their lead to 2-0, Florida still had a 16-6 advantage in shots and Winnipeg took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission with another power play goal, this time capitalizing on the 6-on-4 advantage it got when Tkachuk committed a short-handed penalty.

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The Panthers finished the first period with a 19-9 edge in shots and still trailed 4-2 at the end of the second even though they were outshooting the Jets, 36-19.


The breakthrough finally came in the third, first from the Staals and then from Tkachuk.

On Friday, Tkachuk was at the center of another comeback, handing out three primary assists in the third to help the Panthers erase a two-goal deficit and eventually beat the Blackhawks in overtime for only their second multi-goal come-from-behind win of the season. On Saturday, he was again the best player on the ice, both during 5-on-5 play and on special teams.

The All-Star winger opened the scoring for Florida in the first period, scoring on a rebound on a power play to cut Winnipeg’s lead to 2-1 and keep the Jets from running away from the Panthers early. In the third, he scored in the same way, knocking in a rebound just seconds after right wing Anthony Duclair drew a penalty to eventually get the game to overtime. When Tkachuk was on the ice for 5-on-5 play, Florida outshot the Jets, 13-6, and had a 7-3 advantage in scoring chances.

By getting 3 of 4 possible points out of a back-to-back set in Sunrise, the Panthers mostly held their ground in the postseason race, they just could have — and maybe should have — done even more.