FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Kyle Wellwood has bounced around a bit in his NHL career but he may have finally found his home with the Winnipeg Jets.
Wellwood has taken his game from steady to strong to brilliant in his 11 games with the Jets and Monday night he was at his best with a goal and an assist in regulation and the clinching goal in the shootout as Winnipeg hung a 4-3 loss on the Florida Panthers at Bank Atlantic Center.
Winnipeg has now won two of three on a seven-game road trip and improves to 4-6-1.
Wellwood has had stops with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks and was signed as a free agent late this summer just days before training camp opened. At $650,000 he's been an inexpensive pickup, but with a team-leading five goals and four assists for nine points in 11 games his impact has been invaluable.
"Kyle Wellwood has been a good player for us and to unclog a line we've used him to move into that situation. He's a guy that a lot of guys want to play with," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "He's a really good thinker, he creates things and he's dependable. For us he's been a really good player and I can put him in any situation. He can win faceoffs and he's reliable. He's been really good and for us he's been a big help."
The Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Wellwood and Evander Kane, but a lack of discipline allowed the Panthers to erase that edge.
Florida sniper Tomas Fleischmann scored his fourth and fifth of the season around defenceman Jason Garrison's fifth to give the home side a 3-2 lead well into the third.
But Kane would add his third of the season as he tipped a shot from the point past Panthers goalie Jose Theodore. Winnipeg defenceman Zach Bogosian blasted a shot from the point that both Wellwood and Kane re-directed.
One referee, Tom Kowal, waved it off, thinking a high stick was involved, but the other three officials on the ice deemed it good.
Video review from Toronto confirmed that it was a good goal.
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was miffed over the tying goal.
"When you get it waved off that emphatically, you're under the assumption that it is going to be a no-goal. And when you get it replayed in the dressing room that it is no goal," said Dineen. "I thought we were in pretty good stead there. It's very surprising that it would go from that to all of the sudden a goal. I think some people learned some lessons from that. I think there were some mistakes made on the ice. Unfortunately it costs us a point. A very expensive point."
Wellwood is liking his time with the Jets.
"I'm trying to contribute. I've enjoyed my time here. We've played better the last couple of games and on this road trip. I certainly want to be part of things," said Wellwood. "I hope the feeling is that I'm helping because I'm challenging myself to be better all the time and it's starting to show in my play."
It wasn't all rosy after the game, as Noel wasn't pleased that his club had blown a two-goal lead.
"The part we'd like to change is that we can't seem to close out the games," said the coach. "We're up 2-1 and we need a penalty kill and we can't seem to close it up. We have the same concerns in that we gave them seven power plays. That's discipline. Until we change those things we're going to have trouble winning games."
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