SUNRISE, Fla. — Winnipeg Jets video coach Matt Prefontaine has his work cut out for him after the debacle in south Florida on Thursday night.
Let the record show the Winnipeg Jets fell 6-4 to the Florida Panthers before a sparse crowd at BB&T Center.
Against a better opponent, it might have been worse.
Winnipeg goalie Eric Comrie’s second NHL start was anything but memorable as he surrendered five goals on 35 shots, including two talllies on the first four shots he faced.
"If you don’t get the win, you’re not doing your job," said Comrie. "My job is to get wins and I didn’t do that."
But the 22-year-old from Edmonton didn’t exactly get the assistance an AHL call-up would expect to receive from the fellows on the big club.
"We didn’t give (Comrie) much support on the ice," said Jets right-winger Patrik Laine, whose 15th goal of the year, coming early in the third period, evened the game 4-4.
Florida’s Micheal Haley snapped the tie, redirecting a shot from Derek MacKenzie past Comrie at 9:58 of the third period, as the Panthers (11-13-4) won their first game in four outings and their fourth in the past 10 games.
"Before Detroit, we scored 21 goals in four games, so I think the team just thought it’s going to be easy for these two games because these teams are doing not so well as us," said Laine. "And that’s a mistake, like everybody saw on the ice. We weren’t ready to battle. They played really well and we weren’t playing our game."
The Jets had a couple of late power-play chances, including a two-man advantage for more than a minute, but couldn’t stuff the puck past Florida starter and Manitoba product James Reimer.
The Jets (17-8-4) suffered their second-straight defeat on their current three-game road trip. The Detroit Red Wings pasted them 5-1 Tuesday.
It’s the first time Winnipeg has lost back-to-back games in regulation since the Central Division club kicked off the 2017-18 NHL campaign with losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames.
The Jets will have their hands full Saturday when they take on Steve Stamkos and the electrifying Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL’s premier club.
"Well, it will be good for us. Because if we don’t play with a defence-first attitude, they’ll put 10 by us," said Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice. "It will be a good opportunity for us to get our minds right."
He and his staff will have plenty of miscues to point out when the video is reviewed of the loss to the Panthers, who got goals from Mark Pysyk and Aaron Ekblad within the first four minutes of the game.
Comrie likely desired a re-do on the game opener, a quick shot by Pysyk from just outside the top of the circle that beat him cleanly. Just one shift later, he was left alone to stop Ekblad as the all-star blue-liner barged in and made good on his second whack at the puck.
Maurice switched up his defensive pairings with his club down by two, moving Josh Morrissey back with Dustin Byfuglien and pairing up Jacob Trouba and Ben Chiarot — to mixed reviews.
Vincent Trocheck added a pair of goals for Florida, including an empty netter, while Denis Malgin also scored for the hosts.
Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers and Adam Lowry replied for the Jets, who rallied to take a 3-2 lead early in the second frame but squandered it.
"We started off the game in their zone for about four minutes, so I think our start was pretty good. And then it’s 2-0 and have to regroup and shut the game down a little bit," said Wheeler. "We fought back into it, had a lead, tied 3-3 going into the third on the road, that’s a game we expect to win."
Winnipeg was loose defensively for the second straight game, allowing Florida too much time and space to generate chances.
Malgin’s tying goal late in middle frame was a prime example as the Jets botched two clearing attempts and then blew the coverage as Colton Sceviour found his linemate alone in front of Comrie.
Penalties were problematic, too, as Dustin Byfuglien joined a fairly innocuous scrum and took a needless roughing minor and then Wheeler was called for a careless high stick on Keith Yandle in the offensive zone just before the second period expired.
Florida’s power play carried into the final period and Trocheck cashed in on a goal-mouth scramble just 48 seconds into the third.
"We had enough opportunities to score goals and finish on plays that we didn’t get to the net. We missed the net 18 times," said Maurice. "Just a little too loose on our coverage. We’ve given up 10 hockey goals (not counting the empty-netter) in our last two games and we’re going to have to play a little tighter than that."
Winnipeg’s power play, so deadly in recent weeks, couldn’t connect in the late going. Kyle Connor hit a post during a late scramble, Mark Scheifele couldn’t poke in a puck lying on the goal-line and Laine’s free look sailed well wide on the two-man advantage.
"That was a great chance to score. I just had an empty net myself and couldn’t score," Laine said. "Those are the chances that you have to score, late in the game, chasing one goal, five-on-three, you just have to score."
Reimer, who hails from Morweena northwest of Arborg, had an average night. He made 35 saves but didn’t look good on Laine’s low shot that squeezed through him
The Panthers’ main man, Roberto Luongo, is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
Florida lost talented centre Aleksander Barkov to an upper-body injury.