Jets winless streak reaches five games with loss to first-place Panthers – Winnipeg

A homecoming didn’t end the Winnipeg Jets’ losing streak.

Back at the friendly Canada Life Center for the first time in over a month, the Jets still lost to the Florida Panthers 5-3 on Tuesday. The Jets suffered their fifth straight loss in front of just 250 fans with capacity restricted due to current health restrictions.

The Jets received a heavy blow just an hour before the puck drop, announcing that defenseman Josh Morrissey had entered COVID protocol. This meant that Ville Heinola would make his season debut. The Jets were missing three of their top six defensemen with Dylan DeMelo and Logan Stanley both injured.

The Panthers scored only two minutes into the game and scored two more runs in a high-octane first period that featured five goals. The Jets tied the game early in the second quarter, but the Panthers quickly regained the lead for good.

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“I think we made a lot of mistakes,” head coach Dave Lowry said. “Obviously you find out, and we’re not going to make excuses, but you find out an hour before, you’re going to lose one of your best defenders, aren’t you. By playing one of the best teams and one of the most offensive teams, you take out J-Mo (Morrissey), (you) put guys in positions where they’ve never seen a team like this.

The Panthers are the highest scoring team in the NHL, and the Jets certainly didn’t help their cause with two of the Panthers’ goals being a direct result of Jets turnovers.

“If we want to play their way, we’re not going to win,” Jets forward Paul Stastny said. “I think sometimes you have to stick to your game plan, what makes us work and what makes us successful. Against different teams and different nights, we’re going to have to play in different ways and if we don’t learn a bit to play like that, if we just want to play attack, and we just want to go, go, go – it’s going to be a lot frustration, misery.

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“Everyone wants to contribute, but it means nothing if you don’t win.”

Stastny, Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois scored goals for the Jets.

One of the few bright spots for Winnipeg has been rookie Cole Perfetti’s consistent solid play. The 20-year-old had two assists in the loss, registering both his first career assist and his first career multi-point game.

“I really think the more you play, the more comfortable you feel, the more confidence you gain,” Perfetti said. “I think game after game it gets a bit better. Obviously, it’s a pretty tough league, and it’s going to take a long time to learn, but I really feel like it’s slowing down by a hair.

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It was a gift from Heinola that led directly to Florida’s first goal of the game just over two minutes in. Heinola slid the puck down the boards on his side, but it was intercepted by Anton Lundell, whose shot on net deflected past Connor. Hellebuyck of Mason Marchment.

Marchment had a great chance to make it 2-0 minutes later on a breakaway but he hit the post.

The Jets would even shoot at 8:19. A point shot from Brenden Dillon produced a juicy rebound that Stastny buried past Sergei Bobrovsky.

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Less than four minutes later, Marchment made amends for his missed breakaway. Sam Reinhart won a run for the puck on the Jets side and fed Marchment, who was alone in the slot and covered it past Hellebuyck to give Florida the lead.

But it didn’t last long. 51 seconds later, Connor took a nice pass from Perfetti, deked and beat Bobrovsky to tie the game. It was the first assist of Perfetti’s NHL career.

The first-period back-and-forth came back in Florida’s favor with 2:27 to go. Hellebuyck tried to clear a puck behind his net, but it hit a Panthers player and bounced into the slot where Marchment took a chance on goal that deflected Lundell and inside.

Winnipeg would get the game’s first power play early in the second, and with time ticking away, Perfetti made a great move at the net to set up Dubois for a tap-in goal to tie the game.

Florida regained the lead midway through the period. Hellebuyck was thrown as Aaron Ekblad fired a shot from the point, hitting the goalie’s left leg and sitting in the crease for Carter Verhaeghe to strike home.

Each team would get power-play opportunities later in the period, but the score remained 4-3 in favor of Florida heading into the third.

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The Panthers would score an insurance marker just over 12 minutes into the final period. Anthony Duclair ran through several Jets defensemen and came to the net, he was denied by Hellebuyck but Sam Bennett got the rebound to give the visitors a 5-3 cushion.

It looked like all hope was lost for the Jets when they were awarded a penalty with less than two minutes left, but Adam Lowry came on alone shorthanded and beat Bobrovsky five holes out. Unfortunately for Lowry, the puck somehow drifted away from the net, taking with it any chance of a late comeback.

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Hellebuyck stopped 27 shots in his 12th straight start, while Bobrovsky made 32 saves for the Panthers’ first-place win.

The Jets were also without forward Dominic Toninato and assistant coach Charlie Huddy after they were also placed on COVID protocol earlier in the day.

The Jets will look to end their losing streak when they host the Canucks on Thursday night. The pregame show begins at 680 CJOB at 5 p.m. with a puck drop shortly after 7 p.m.

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