The Jets embarked on a four-game road trip with three of the four games going against Southeast Division opponents. The first stop was in Sunrise to meet the Panthers for the third time so far this season (1-1-0).
With a depleted lineup, the Panthers came on strong and were rewarded as Tomas Kopecky opened the scoring early in the first period. Kyle Wellwood notched his first of the season to tie things up early in the second, but a couple more Panthers goals in the middle frame and one in the third, lifted the Panthers past the Jets to a 4-1 final.
"I thought we came out a little sluggish," said Wellwood. "We didn't find a way to get the puck into the areas to get on the forecheck and get some hits. We have a lot of guys that do well when there is a high tempo to the game and tonight, we really slowed the game down.
"Tonight was a night there was a lot of open ice and a lot of time with the puck which suited me but it's a team game and we have to get on the forecheck and get some energy. We have some strong fast players that need to have some physicality to the game and tonight, we weren't able to establish that."
The Jets will travel to Tampa Bay tomorrow where they will face the Lightning Thursday night and then they will be right back here in Sunrise for a rematch against the Panthers Friday night.
The Jets' Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler line had a great opportunity just under five minutes into the game. With a wide open net for Little down low in front, it looked like it was a done deal but Tomas Fleischmann threw himself across the crease at the last second to redirect the puck up and over the net and kept the game scoreless.
15 seconds later, Tomas Kopecky opened the scoring for the Panthers on a 3-on-2 play through the neutral zone. Marcel Goc tapped a nice pass onto Kopecky's stick inside the right circle who fired a sharp angle shot that beat Pavelec. 1-0 Panthers.
Through 20 minutes, the Jets trailed 1-0 and the shots were 9-8 Panthers.
Kyle Wellwood tied things up on his first of the season at 1:42 of the second period. Ladd sent him a great feed just outside the hash-marks in the slot and Wellwood moved in closer and fired a wrister that beat Jacob Markstrom. 1-1.
Shawn Matthias regained the lead for the Panthers at 9:55 of the period on a nice unassisted effort. He carried the puck across the blueline into the Jets zone, stick-handled around the outside of his defender and was able to snap a shot from just inside the circle that beat Pavelec top shelf to make it 2-1.
Jonathan Huberdeau added to the Panthers lead at 14:50 of the second period on a penalty shot goal. Just a step in front of the Jets defense, Huberdeau drew the penalty shot and buried the puck right under the crossbar to make it 3-1 Cats.
Through two periods, the Jets trailed by a pair of goals. Shots were 18-13 Panthers.
Mike Santorelli widened the Panthers gap at 3:43 of the final frame after Bryan Campbell sent nice slap-pass onto his tape to the right of Pavelec. He faked inside-outside until Pavelec moved out of his crease just enough to go around the outside and tuck the backhand along the inside of the post. 4-1 Panthers.
The Jets were eagerly looking for a power play opportunity for the rest of the period but were not given but one chance on the advantage through the entire game. They did have a couple of good chances down low but just weren't able to solve Markstrom and fell to a 4-1 final in Sunrise, Florida.
They will travel Wednesday to Tampa Bay where they will face the Lightning on Thursday before heading right back to Sunrise for another game against the Panthers Friday, and will wrap up their trip in New Jersey on Sunday.