The Winnipeg Jets earned a massive two points against old friend Paul Maurice and the Panthers from FLA Live Arena in Sunrise on Saturday evening.
The points, however, did come with a cost.
Although not quite as entertaining as the Toronto/Edmonton thriller from Ontario, the other Hockey Night in Canada game did provide fans with a typical Winnipeg Jets collapse, a recovery, a couple injuries and an overtime winner, all to the tune of a 5-4 Jets win with just 29 seconds left in the extra frame.
Connor Hellebuyck played sensationally, bouncing back from a couple rough outings this past week. Despite giving up four goals, he turned aside 44 shots and earned his 28th win in the process. The victory came off the stick of Mark Scheifele, who potted two markers in the game, including the game-winner late in overtime.
But it was newcomer Vladislav Namestnikov who stole the show for Winnipeg. Scoring twice and adding an assist, he improved his point totals to five in just four games since being acquired by the Jets. Fellow addition Nino Niederreiter also picked up a point in Florida, while Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler each recorded multi-point outings.
Winnipeg got out to a quick 2-0 lead, only to see Matthew Tkachuk cut the deficit in half a minute after Ehlers’ sixth of the season put them ahead early. But Namestnikov got his first as a Jet with time ticking down on the first period, sending the teams back to their dressing rooms at a 3-1 score.
The teams exchanged goals in the middle stanza, with Namestnikov finding his second of the game, before the Panthers scored two quick ones in the first seven minutes of the third period to send the game to overtime. It was Scheifele’s 38th of the year that won it for the visitors with just 29 seconds left before what would have been a game-deciding shootout.
Florida struck three times on the man advantage, while Winnipeg scored two power play goals in the game. But the biggest storyline heading into Sunday’s tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning is the injury setbacks suffered in the win for the Jets.
Both Adam Lowry and Josh Morrissey left Saturday’s game, to which head coach Rick Bowness later said they may be unavailable for Sunday’s tilt with the always dominant Bolts.
“More evaluation tomorrow,” Bowness said. “I would say both of them are very, very doubtful for tomorrow.”
On Sunday, Bowness updated that Lowry would take part in warmup, while Morrissey hopes to be back in time for Tuesday’s game against Carolina.
The concern surrounding injuries continues to grow as the Jets are already down centre Pierre-Luc Dubois who aims to be back on Thursday at home against the Boston Bruins, as he continues to battle an upper-body injury.
The victory did help Winnipeg pull six points clear of the Calgary Flames for eighth-place in the conference and maintain the final wild card spot, but again, the concern is for the team’s injured parties going forward.
“It’s just the next man up mentality,” Scheifele said. “Obviously with Josh and Lows, they’re two huge pieces of our team and just the next guy’s gotta step up and make a difference.”
Puck drop from Amalie Arena is set for 6:00 PM central time on Sunday night. The game can be viewed live on TSN.