Blake Wheeler collected three assists Sunday night, including his 50th of the season on the tiebreaking goal, as the Winnipeg Jets took over first place in the Central Division with a 7-2 rout of the visiting Florida Panthers.
Kyle Connor scored two goals for the Jets, his second occurring at 3:38 of the third period off Wheeler’s third assist at Bell MTS Place. Bryan Little tacked on his 13th goal at 6:03, Tyler Myers drawing his third assist of the game. Mathieu Perreault added his 16th at 15:27 and Patrik Laine potted his 27th at 18:25.
Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves as the Jets improved to 79 points, two more than the Nashville Predators. James Reimer stopped 27 shots but absorbed the loss for Florida, which had won seven of its past eight games.
It wasn’t surprising that the teams took turns scoring goals in the first two periods, given that Florida came in averaging four goals per game in its past eight contests and Winnipeg is sixth in the NHL in scoring.
The Panthers initiated scoring at 8:57 of the first period on the power play. Denis Malgin took advantage of a screen by Jamie McGinn and beat Hellebuyck with a wrister from the top of the right circle for his 10th goal of the season.
Connor equalized for the Jets with the man advantage at 12:06 of the opening period with his 20th marker. Wheeler found him on the back side and slipped him a pass at the left post. Connor flicked the puck past Reimer.
Nikolaj Ehlers gave Winnipeg its first lead at 4:39 of the second period with his 23rd goal on a fluky play. Ehlers tried a shot from the left boards that hit off a defender’s stick, flopped over Reimer, struck him in the back on the way down and trickled over the goal line.
Florida tied it with its second power-play tally at 7:34 as Aleksander Barkov got credit for his 20th goal by getting a piece of Evgenii Dadonov’s shot from the high slot. However, the Jets regained the lead at 18:29 as Mark Scheifele notched his 18th on a one-timer from the right circle just after a man advantage ended.
Perreault finished with three points, while Laine and Little had two apiece.
—Field Level Media