It was a must win game for the Jets tonight against the Southeast Division rival Panthers...but as are pretty much every game around this time of year. Unfortunately, after another 2-1 game tonight, the Jets fell on the wrong side.
Kris Versteeg opened the scoring for the Panthers on the power play at 15:46 which made it 1-0 after one.
Bryan Little notched the Jets lone goal at 11:29 of the second period after Chris Thorburn dropped the gloves with Krystofer Barch to energize the benches. Sean Bergenheim would answer right back for the Panthers just under three minutes later, which wound up being the game-winner.
Chris Mason was excellent tonight despite the loss, stopping 28 of 30 shots on net.
The Jets fall back to five points behind the Panthers for the division lead. They will rest up tonight for a quick turn-around heading into Montreal for another tough, must-win game.
Game time goes at 1:00 pm CST.
Alex Burmistrov took the game's first penalty of the night with just five minutes remaining on the clock in the first period putting the Panthers on a power play.
Who else but Kris Versteeg to convert on the man advantage as he fired a hard slap shot through a screen that Mason couldn't see and beat him just inside the post stick-side. Mikael Samuelsson and Brian Campbell pick up the helpers and it's 1-0 Panthers.
That's how the first period would end with the Panthers on top by a goal and also led in the shots department 10-6.
Not too much to speak of in the middle frame but the best chance of the first half was for the Panthers but Mason absolutely robbed Marcel Goc on a last minute pad save. He made the initial save on the right post and pushed of to get to the other side of his crease just in time to shut the door on Goc and keep the Jets only down by one.
With nine minutes to play in the period, Chris Thorburn and Krystofer Barch dropped the gloves to try to ignite their teams. A nice dangle around centre before they finally started throwing a few punches. An even fight for the most part and sent a jolt of electricity to the benches.
The fight seemed to work as Bryan Little evened the score on four on four action. Blake Wheeler made a nice hit in the corner to break loose the puck for Little. He made his way to the middle of the left circle and just as the Panthers began to sworm, he blasted a wrister straight through the legs of Scott Clemmensen. Andrew Ladd picked up the second assist on the goal. 1-1 tie.
It didn't take long for the Panthers to restore their one goal lead as Sean Bergenheim took a nice pass from Goc from behind the net. Bergenheim snapped a quick one that just got through Mason into the corner. 2-1 with just under five minutes to play.
After 40 minutes, the Panthers led 2-1. The shots were 22-14 also in favour of the Panthers.
Heading into the third period, the odds are not in the Jets favour for picking up the 'W'....in fact, they have not won a game this year when trailing after the second period (0-17-3). The Panthers on the other hand are excellent at holding onto a lead heading into the final frame (12-0-4). So, needless to say, it's an uphill climb and not such an easy task for the white and blue.
The Jets continued to battle hard through the entire third period creating chances taking shots and playing smart hockey. But unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be, as the buzzer went and the Panthers took both points tonight.
They will take a light travel day tomorrow before heading to Montreal to play the Canadiens on Sunday.