It’s been a solid first two months of the season for the Winnipeg Jets. But while the start of the campaign has gone well, starts of games have been a different story, and one they’ll try to rectify when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.
The Jets scored five unanswered goals after trailing 2-0 in a 5-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks, the last-place team in the Pacific Division, in their most recent outing Sunday.
It was the second straight game and the third time in its past six that Winnipeg has trailed by multiple goals.
“I’m the head coach so I’m responsible for the way we start and getting our team prepared. So that starts with me,” Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness said. “The second thing is, I’m not a babysitter. These guys are men. They’re professionals and they’re paid to show up here and go to work. My job here is to make that happen.”
The Jets have allowed 22 goals in the first period, their highest total of the three periods, and have scored only 15. They’ve had to come from behind in seven of their 15 wins this season, and five of their victories have come after trailing after the opening frame.
“All I want to see is action,” Bowness said. “I want to see passion and emotion in the way we play. Right or wrong, play with passion, play with emotion and we’ll figure the rest out. We’re still trying to figure this team out a little bit. We are. We’ll figure it out.”
Forward Pierre-Luc Dubois brings a five-game point streak into Tuesday’s contest, with three goals and three assists during that span. He has nine points (four goals, five assists) in his past seven contests.
The Panthers will look to close out a five-game road trip on a high note with a third straight win. Florida has skated away with 5-1 victories in each of the past two games, most recently snapping the Seattle Kraken’s seven-game winning streak.
The win came at a cost, however, as forward Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Radko Gudas each left the game with upper-body injuries. Coach Paul Maurice said Monday that both players entered concussion protocol, and Hornqvist was placed on long-term injured reserve.
The Panthers entered the Seattle game short-handed as forward Anton Lundell was a late scratch, also with an upper-body injury.
“It seems like we just keep finding a way to battle,” Carter Verhaeghe said. “It’s tough losing all those guys. They’re great players and help us a lot.”
Verhaeghe, who scored a career-high 24 goals in 78 games last season, is on pace for a new personal best. He scored twice against Seattle and leads Florida with 14 goals. Linemate Matthew Tkachuk leads the team with 22 assists and 34 points and is second with 12 goals.
Center Sam Bennett completes the trio and has seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points, ranking third or tied for third on the team in each category.
“They each have a little piece,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “They have great hands, great speed, lots of physicality. It’s one of those lines you like so much (that) you hope you can keep it together.”
–Field Level Media