SUNRISE, Fla. – Dustin Byfuglien was determined to take matters into his own hands, and it paid off.
Byfuglien scored with 40.5 seconds left in overtime and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Friday night. Byfuglien brought the puck across to the right circle and was wide open for the winning shot. His wrister whistled past Jacob Markstrom.
“I do give myself a little bit more of a green light to roam around and try to get lost and try to have guys lose me and lose themselves, where they’re supposed to be and their position,” Byfuglien said. “Everyone was kind of low and just trying to make a play to get in the middle of the ice and I found myself one-on-one with the goalie.”
Byfuglien’s aggressiveness and natural ability combined to give the Jets the extra point.
“You could tell on the bench he was pretty fired up the last 10 minutes to get this thing back on track. He has that ability,” Jets coach Claude Noel said. “He makes a toe drag in the slot, holds on, holds on, and it’s in the net. That’s what he can do.”
Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd also scored for Winnipeg. Ladd also had an assist and has three goals and four assists in the last five games for the Jets.
Ondrej Pavelec made 38 saves.
“I thought our goaltender was our best player, that’s the first thing,” Noel said.
Shawn Matthias and Jonathan Huberdeau scored goals for Florida and Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 shots.
The Jets have won five of their past seven games. The Panthers have lost five of six.
The Panthers tied it at 2 in the third period on Matthias’ goal. Tomas Kopecky passed across to Matthias to the left of the crease and his wrist shot beat Pavelec high on the stick side.
“We needed that, we needed to tie it up, there was only a few minutes left,” Matthias said. “We had the momentum there; we have to finish what we started. They were on their heels, we have to come out and get that third goal and win.”
Trailing 2-0, the Panthers scored when a loose puck bounced off Huberdeau in traffic in front of the Jets’ net. The puck barely crossed the goal line with 13 seconds left in the first period. Huberdeau has four goals in four games against the Jets this season.
It didn’t take long for the Jets to find the net: 2:35 to be exact. Ladd’s goal came on the first shot by the Jets. Ladd’s shot from the left circle was partially blocked but trickled past Markstrom and just crossed the goal line before the net was dislodged.
Ladd leads the Jets with 13 goals.
The Jets went ahead 2-0 on Wheeler’s slap shot from the right circle.
Markstrom was pulled from Thursday’s game at Washington at 3:10 after allowing goals on the first two shots. This time, he played better as the game went on.
“That’s never how you want to start a hockey game,” Markstrom said. “As more and more time went off the clock I felt better and better, and I felt like I got into the game coming into the second period. The guys did a hell of a job in the third to push back and tie it up.”
This was the fifth overtime loss at home for the Panthers this season.
“Overtime has been a real Achilles’ heel for us,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “You lose five games at home in overtime, that’s disappointing for our players and for our fan base.”
Notes: Panthers W Kris Versteeg returned to the lineup Friday after missing 12 games with an upper body injury. … The Jets have gone seven straight games without allowing a power-play goal and defended 21 short-handed situations in that stretch. … The Jets ended a three-game Florida road trip. They lost to the Panthers 4-1 last Tuesday and beat Tampa Bay 2-1 on Thursday.