The Florida Panthers tried to claw their way back from an early deficit but their efforts were not enough.
After falling into a three-goal hole in the third period, the Panthers mustered up two late goals with their net empty before falling 6-4 to the Winnipeg Jets.
This came after Winnipeg scored three unanswered goals in the second period to take a two-goal lead into the final period.
”We didn’t like our second period. We put up 16 shots, but defensively, we weren’t very stout,” coach Paul Maurice said.
“But it’s good that we’re not quitting in games even when it’s away from us.”
The Panthers got too comfortable after taking a 2-1 lead early in the second period and it immediately backfired.
After winning the ensuing face-off after Evan Rodrigues’ go-ahead goal, Mark Scheifele found Kyle Connor in front of the net and he one-timed the pass to erase Florida’s lead.
That still stands as the Panthers’ lone lead of the season — and it lasted all of 10 seconds.
Josh Mahura got muscled off the puck by Rasmus Kupari after a Winnipeg dump-in eight minutes later and Morgan Barron finished off the feed to put the Jets on top.
Dylan DeMelo finished Winnipeg’s second-period surge with a rocket of a wrist shot from the top of the slot after Florida’s defenders lost multiple puck battles in the corners.
All, told the Jets held the puck for most of the second period and the Panthers had a hard time getting it back, going 10-for-21 in the face-off dot in the period and 27-f0r-68 overall.
“We were chasing the game because we couldn’t start with the puck,” Maurice said. “We had a tough night in the face-off circle and we have to find a way to get better.”
Florida had multiple chances to get back into the game early in the third period — getting three power plays — but the Jets took matters into their own hands when they found themselves shorthanded a fourth time.
Or feet, in this case.
After losing his stick, Adam Lowry kicked the puck up the ice to himself before teammate Josh Morrissey handed him a stick from the bench.
He continued the rush before threading a cross-ice pass to Mason Appleton, who put Winnipeg up by three with a shorthanded goal with 5:43 to go.
It was one of the biggest blunders for a Panthers power play which started the season 1-for-10 through two games.
There were some positive moments for Florida’s power play — 13 shots and a first-period Sam Reinhart goal off a feed from Rodrigues — but also a lot of sloppy passes leading to turnovers and scoring chances like the one Lowry created.
With two new additions — Rodrigues and power play quarterback Oliver Ekman-Larsson — there have been growing pains within the unit.
“We have some room to improve,” Maurice said. “These guys will get to know each other a little better. You got two new pieces to the first unit, there’s still some work to do there.”
Rodrigues made a good impression in his second game as a Panther, finishing with two goals and four points on the night.
“He’s so skilled,” Carter Verhaeghe said of Rodrigues. “He has all the tools. He is really fast, can skate. He’s a really good player. He fits in perfectly with our team.”
He helped springboard a Florida comeback effort, first bursting into the offensive zone with speed and picking up a secondary assist on a Verhaeghe rebound goal with 3:29 to go.
Rodrigues then tipped a rocket of a shot from Sasha Barkov past Connor Hellebuyck’s glove to bring the Panthers back within a goal with 2:23 to go.
The comeback effort unleashed by Maurice’s bold decision to pull goaltender Sergei Bobrovksy with over four minutes to go appeared to be in vain when Dmitry Kulikov took a holding penalty with 2:04 left in the game.
Matthew Tkachuk was close to dispelling that with 1:39 to go, bursting onto a shorthanded breakaway but just hitting the post on a wide-open top corner.
Kyle Connor iced the game for the Jets, scoring his second goal of the night on an empty net with 1:10 remaining on the clock.
Bobrovsky finished the game with 29 saves on 34 shots but found himself under siege for a majority of the game.
Winnipeg led 20-9 in scoring chances and 9-6 in high-danger chances per Natural Stat Trick.
“He keeps us in the game every night and I cannot ask any more from him,” Verhaeghe said.
“We need to play better defense in front of him and keep their shots to the outside. But we know what we’re getting from him.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
PANTHERS @ NEW JERSEY DEVILS
- When: Monday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Prudential Center, Newark
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM 2;WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- This Season: Panthers @ Devils, Monday; Devils @ Panthers, Jan. 13; Panthers @ Devils, March 5
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Devils lead 57-35-7, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Home Opener; Thursday vs. Toronto, 7 p.m.