Finnish native Patrik Laine scored three goals in his return home as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Florida Panthers 4-2 on Thursday before a sold-out crowd of 13,490 at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland.
Laine, who was second in the NHL last season with 44 goals, had come to Finland mired in a five-game points drought. But Laine, who led the NHL with 20 power-play goals last season, scored twice with the man advantage on Thursday and once on an empty-netter with 53 seconds left. He now has six goals this season.
Thursday’s game, part of the Global Series, was just the sixth NHL regular-season contest in Finland. The teams will meet again on Friday.
Florida’s Aleksander Barkov, the first Finnish-born player selected in the top two of the NHL draft, had one assist.
Both Laine, 20, and Barkov, 23, are from Tampere, Finland, which is roughly 100 miles from Helsinki. They were linemates for Finland in the 2016 IIHF World Championships.
Barkov, the NHL’s second-overall pick in 2013, scored 27 goals last season and was a first time All-Star. Laine was the second-overall pick in 2016.
Florida’s goals were scored by Keith Yandle and Evgenii Dadonov.
Winnipeg also got a goal from Mathieu Perreault.
Connor Hellebuyck, who won 44 games last season and finished second in the Vezina Trophy voting, earned the victory, making 36 saves.
Panthers goalie James Reimer took the loss, making 32 saves.
The Jets opened the scoring with 1:26 left in the first period. The Jets forced a turnover from Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau. Reimer saved a wrist shot from Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little’s rebound attempt. But the second rebound was too juicy, and Perreault tapped the puck in easily.
Florida tied the score with 4:18 expired in the second on Yandle’s power-play goal. Yandle, set up in the high slot, took a pass from Barkov and hammered home the goal. The power play was set up when Jacob Trouba was called for tripping Denis Malgin.
Ironically, a tripping penalty on Florida’s Alex Petrovic against Nikolaj Ehlers set up a Jets power-play goal by Laine with 15:14 expired in the second period.
Florida tied the score 2-2 with 17:54 expired in the second as a Mike Matheson shot was deflected in by Dadonov.
Laine scored the game-winner with 3:28 expired in the third period, taking a pass from Blake Wheeler.