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Turkey Bowl? Florida Panthers Ground Up by Winnipeg Jets

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Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice, now 0-3-1 against his former team, looks on in the third period while his players check out the action in an eventual 3-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

SUNRISE — Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice did not mince words after his team lost 3-0 to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

There were certainly plenty of excuses Maurice could have made.

For instance, the Jets played with some extra juice as coach Rick Bowness returned to the bench following a one-month leave of absence to care for his ailing wife.

Then there was Florida’s power play which is still going through some growing pains after reintroducing Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour.

Oh, and captain Sasha Barkov was fresh off a knee injury.

None of those things were on Maurice’s mind when he spoke postgame.

Nor should they have been.

The Jets, Maurice’s former team which has now won five straight and eight of nine, were simply the better team.

Plain and simple.

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Were the Panthers sleepy due to too much tryptophan?

“There’s factors, not excuses,” Maurice said. “There’s no excuse. We were horseshit tonight.

“The factor is that (Winnipeg got) fired up. There are 15 games tonight, I think 13 of the road teams are going to win them because there’s too much turkey eaten by the home team. We brought a few drumsticks out on the ice tonight.”

After taking a day off for Thanksgiving, the Panthers looked flatter than the can of beer your Uncle Rick left on the coffee table as he rambled on about the rising deli prices at Publix.

And, in Maurice’s defense, 13 of 15 home teams did lose on Friday.

Blame it on Thanksgiving?

Florida had 12 total high-danger chances. Winnipeg had 10.

At the end of that day, the Jets took advantage.

“We waited for our chances and then capitalized on them,’’ said Connor Hellebuyck, who made 32 saves for his first shutout of the season. “We won with three goals and I think everyone is happy with three goals.”

The shots and scoring chances tell a similar story — with the Jets leading 26-25 in chances and shots being tied 32-32 — but the Jets had more bodies at the net to clean up and that made the difference.

Florida just did not seem to have the jump the visitors did.

“We had shots, we had chances,” Barkov said. “But we didn’t have second or third guys going to the net and putting the rebounds in.”

While the Panthers did have too much turkey, as Barkov also suggested, there are some concerning elements from the loss.

Florida’s offensive output was very much a carryover from the third period of their loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.

The Panthers had more scoring chances (8) as they did shots (6) in that frame as they could not seem to find an answer against a tight Bruins defense.

Winnipeg played a similar style, holding Florida to the outside and allowing their star goaltender to do the rest.

And yes, the last two opponents having Vezina quality opponents in Hellebuyck and Linus Ullmark definitely did not help.

“We played two big goalies back-to-back,” Ryan Lomberg said. “I thought we had a decent amount of chances in both games, we’ve just got to find the back of the net.”

In the end, Winnipeg got the goals where it mattered.

Nino Niederreiter put the Jets on the board with 2:17 to go in the first period and Florida could not find an answer.

It was not until Nikolaj Ehlers scored a highlight-reel goal midway through the third period that either side broke the stalemate.

The Panthers had their chances, but whether it be missed chance after missed chance fluttering away from the net or a usually routine pass getting broken up, it just was not their night.

“Over the 82, you’re going to have some tough firsts, but we’ve been good,” Maurice said.

”We have been able to rally and get back, but we did some strange things tonight. We had breakaways that we passed off and open plays we decided to not hit. The positive is that your whole group is that bad. That’s fixable. It’;s not something systemic that we’ve seen for a long time.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ OTTAWA SENATORS

  • When: Monday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • This Season — At Ottawa: Monday, April 4; At Florida: Feb. 20, April 9
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Ottawa leads 57-44-5, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday at Toronto, 7 p.m.

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