Florida lost eight of its previous 12 games to the Atlanta Thrashers before the re-tooled Jets came into BankAtlantic Center on Monday and scored a controversial third period goal and later won 4-3 in a shootout.
The Panthers were vying to win their second straight and get off to one of their top starts in franchise history. A win would have given the Panthers 14 points in the opening 11 games, something that's only happened three other times. Those three teams all made the playoffs.
On Monday, Florida led 3-2 in the third thanks to a pair of goals from Tomas Fleischmann. But Evander Kane scored with 49.1 seconds left after the goal was initially waved off for a high stick from Kyle Wellwood. Hockey Central in Toronto reviewed the play and ruled it a goal for all but force overtime.
The Jets scored on two of their three shootout shots with Florida's Kris Versteeg and Mike Santorelli being stopped.
“When you get it waved off so emphatically, you have the assumption it's a no goal,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “It's a shame, but I think some people learned from that. There was a mistake made on the ice and it cost us a point, a very expensive point.''
The Panthers trailed going into the third period despite dominating play against a scrappy Winnipeg team in the midst of a seven game road trip that takes the Jets through Philadelphia, Florida, the New York metro area and Buffalo. The Jets had lost seven of their first 10 games this season.
With the sale and relocation of the Thrashers happening after the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, the NHL kept the Winnipeg franchise in the Southeast Division for one final season. The league will realign its team for next season; that means the former Thrashers get five more chances to beat the Panthers before the two part, their meetings becoming more infrequent after this season.
On Monday, the Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead despite Florida getting many more offensive chances against goalie Ondrej Pavelec (39 saves). Kyle Wellwood put the Jets up by scoring on Winnipeg's initial offering against Jose Theodore (4-2-1, 28 saves).
At the midway point of the opening period, Kane made it 2-0 by scoring on the Jets' sixth shot of the night.
“We have to get some goals and learn how to hold the lead,'' Versteeg said. “We played a great game, completely out played them the entire game. Their goals were all pretty lucky bounces. We'll go back to work tomorrow. It was our game to win and we need to learn how to do that.''
The Panthers cut the deficit in half late in the first as defenseman Jason Garrison continued his hot streak by blasting a shot from 52 feet away. Garrison, who had five goals last season, has four in his first 11 this season including one in each of Florida's past three games.
Garrison, who as usual came up strong on the defensive side of the ice, got a shot off during Florida's four-minute power play that came at the end of the second and leaked into the third. The Panthers failed to score with Dustin Byfuglien in the box for jumping Jack Skille, but would tie it at 2 when Fleischmann followed up a long rebound off a Stephen Weiss shot with 16:47 left in the third.
Fleischmann gave Florida a 3-2 lead with his second of the night, but the Jets tied it late and handed Florida its first shootout loss of the season.
“Again, we let them score a late goal and that can't happen,'' Fleischmann said.
Panthers assistant coach Craig Ramsay knows a little bit about the Winnipeg Jets. Last year, Ramsay was head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers but was let go when the team was sold and relocated to Manitoba.
There are definitely more Thrashers playing for the Jets right now than players who were with the Panthers last season.
Ramsay, who has been an assistant coach in Buffalo, Ottawa, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, says he holds no ill will toward his former charges. After all, he goes down in the record books at the last coach of the Thrashers.
“I did get a chance to chat with some of the guys,'' Ramsay said Monday morning. “They’re great people. I wish them well other than tonight. I wish the players success. .-.-. I haven’t buried many teams before. I’ve moved around to teams but this is the first time I had the team move. Whatever happens after a team decides to sell and move is beyond my control.’’
Ramsay isn't the only member of the Panthers staff with ties to Atlanta. Assistant athletic trainer Tommy Alva joined the Panthers this summer after spending the past three with the Thrashers.
Former Florida first round pick Kenndal McArdle (2005) is now with the Jets and came into the night scoreless in three games. The Panthers traded him to Winnipeg in July for Angelo Esposito.
-- The Panthers had two familiar faces at Monday's morning skate as goalie Scott Clemmensen and winger Sean Bergenheim joined their teammates for the first time in a while.
Clemmensen has been working on his own the past few weeks after having knee surgery in September; Bergenheim has missed the past seven games with what's believed to be a groin injury.