WINNIPEG, Manitoba (CBSSports) – The Winnipeg Jets were in full flight in their playoff push.
Evander Kane scored two goals and the Jets beat the Florida Panthers 7-2 on Thursday night to tie the New York Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Aaron Gagnon, Andrew Ladd, Grant Clitsome, Dustin Byfuglienand Chris Thorburn also scored to help Winnipeg win its third straight and increase its points total to 44. The Jets also remained two points behind Southeast Division-leading Washington.
T.J. Brennan and Tomas Fleischmann scored for Florida.
The Jets led 3-2 lead after a wild first period that featured four goals in less than 3 minutes.
“There’s a part of the game you’re going to go through where you have situations like that, where maybe it’s not ideal,” Ladd said. “But we’re still winning the game 3-2 and it settled the guys down and (we) moved forward.”
Gagnon got things started with his second career NHL goal. He was parked in front of the net and deflected Blake Wheeler’s shot from the point past Jacob Markstrom at 3:54.
Less than a minute later, Brennan deflected one past Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec.
Kane scored 18 seconds later, tipping the puck past a sprawling Markstrom to put the Jets ahead again, but Fleischmann countered with a wrist shot that slipped under Pavelec’s leg.
Winnipeg coach Claude Noel then called a timeout to try and settle things down and it seemed to work.
“It was back and forth – it’s not ideally what you’d like but there’s an opponent too you know – we wanted to get things back on track,” Noel said. “I thought we did a great job straightening it out.”
Ladd put the Jets back in front at 3-2 lead at the 12:42 mark of the first.
“It wasn’t in anyone’s plans (the wide-open first period), but that’s how it happened and you’ve just got to move on,” Panthes enforcer George Parrossaid.
Florida put on more pressure in the second, but the Jets added to their lead, starting just past the 10-minute mark when Bryan Little fed Clitsome in the slot on a power play.
Byfuglien drilled one past Markstrom from the point 28 seconds later, and Kane dashed in behind the sprawling goaltender to slip one into an empty net at 11:58.
That was enough for coach Kevin Dineen, who put veteran Scott Clemmensenin the net.
The frustrated Panthers ended the second by handing the Jets a five-on-three power play. It started with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Parros after he failed to goad Chris Thorburn into a fight, followed by an illegal check to Little’s head by Eric Gudbranson.
Thorburn deflected Ron Hainsey’s shot past Clemmensen at the 11:53 mark of the third.
Kane has three goals and two assists in the last three games. He noted that the second periods have been keys to success in all three of the Jets’ wins during the streak.
“I think our seconds have really been the difference in these last few games,” he said. “We’ve come out and wanted to kind of bury teams early in the game and not wait around till the third period. … Instead of talking we’re just going out there and doing it and that’s good to see.”
– Jets captain Andrew Ladd has a four-game points streak.
– Paul Postma replaced injured defenseman Tobias Enstrom in Winnipeg’s lineup.
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