WINNIPEG -- A thrilling shootout ended in heartbreak for the Winnipeg Jets, who dropped a divisional tilt against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
After a scoreless overtime period, 12 shooters took to the ice in the shootout, as the Jets and Panthers matched goal-for-goal and miss-for-miss. But the Panthers' Mikael Samuelsson fired one past Jets tender Ondrej Pavelec to win the game.
The Panthers bit early in the key divisional tilt, scoring two unanswered first-period goals: one from Panthers star Kris Versteeg almost six minutes into the first, another from center Mike Santorelli with only 16 seconds left in the period.
But while the normally rowdy MTS Centre crowd trembled, forward Nik Antropov kept the Jets in the game. The big forward potted a goal early in the second on a feed from Kyle Wellwood to bring the game to within a point.
A little over six minutes into the third period, Antropov scored again, stickhandling a beauty around the Panthers’ crease before firing it past Panthers tender Scott Clemmensen.
That goal, Antropov’s eighth goal of the season, tied the game and sent the hungry MTS Centre crowd into a frenzy.
But the euphoria in the MTS Centre didn’t last long. Less than a minute after the Jets’ second goal, Versteeg fired a shot on the Jets net and watched the puck bounce into and then over Pavelec to put the Panthers up by one.
Forward Alex Burmistrov pushed the Jets into overtime, rifling a shot past Clemmensen late in the third to tie the game at 3 and bringing the crowd to its feet with just over six minutes left in regulation time.
Winnipeg Jets sniper Evander Kane is suffering from concussion-like symptoms and will be lost to the team for the next little while -- maybe longer.
Head coach Claude Noel confirmed Kane’s injury after Saturday morning’s game-day skate in advance of tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers.
“Evander Kane came to us (Friday) with a headache. We weren’t sure what it was because we’ve had the flu come through a couple of guys,” said Noel. “We sent him home and wanted to make sure we got an evaluation on him. We’ve got him evaluated and it looks like he has a concussion. He’s feeling better today. We’re going to play it day by day and see how he’s doing.
“It’s part of the game, it’s another injury for me. You just have to deal with people and whether they’re in or out and how long it’s going to be. The thing is it’s a fairly grey area and you don’t know what you’re dealing with, that’s the problem. Is it going to be a few days, is it going to be a few weeks? But I’ll handle that the same way with everything else. We have what we have.”
Kane leads the Jets with 18 goals and is second on the team with 31 points in 46 games. His spot on the Jets’ top line with Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler will be filled by Eric Fehr. Patrice Cormier has also been summoned from St. John’s and will be in the lineup against Florida.
It’s uncertain, but unlikely, that Kane would travel with the Jets to Carolina and to New York for the two road games before next week’s all-star break.
The club isn’t sure when Kane suffered the concussion, but he did finish Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
“I have no idea which game, I have no idea when all this took place,” said Noel. “I’m not so sure he completely knows. I’m not sure when he was feeling these effects so I don’t have any answers to those questions.
“When you’re a player like him that has success you’re going to get more physical play your way. Sometimes this is going to be the result. I don’t think people target the head specifically, it’s just part of what takes place when you’re a player that draws attention.”
Tim Stapleton also missed the morning skate and will not play against the Panthers after tweaking a nagging lower-body injury.
The good news on the injury front is defenceman Zach Bogosian will return after missing five games and Dustin Byfuglien skated wearing a bright orange no-contact jersey while testing out a knee brace. No decision has been made as of yet as to whether Byfuglien would travel with the Jets on Sunday or play in advance of the NHL All-Star game, for which he was named, on Jan. 29 in Ottawa.
“We’re trying to assess that,” said Noel. “It was nice to see him out there today… even though he was in bright orange. He was hard to miss. He looked pretty good, actually. We’re just trying to check out how he’s doing. I haven’t got any definite response (from the medical staff) as to whether we’re going to take him or not. We’ve got to make sure we get him ready to play. I’m not sure he’s going to be a player in the next couple of games and that would dictate would happens in the all-star game.”