After a week of preparation, the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers finally competed head-to-head in Helsinki, Finland. The highly-anticipated matchup represented the first of two games between the clubs. The second game comes tomorrow night, and will conclude the NHL Global Series for 2018-19.
Finnish fans got their money’s worth tonight in a game that ended by a score of 4 to 2 in favour of Winnipeg.
Jets 4 – Cats 2
Period One: Fast-Paced Battle
A week’s worth of excitement came to a head at the opening faceoff tonight. Florida captain Aleksander Barkov took the draw in his home country, and fellow Finn Patrik Laine lined up on the wing for the Jets. The two took a ceremonial puck drop from Finnish star Teemu Selanne as well before the game got underway.
The wait for these games was immediately worth it. Despite not scoring for the first part of the period, both teams brought a ton of speed. A fast back-and-forth period with scoring chances at both ends kept things interesting. That included a near miss on a breakaway for Evgeni Dadonov, looking to extend his six-game point streak entering play today.
Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck faced quite an onslaught of shots but turned away all 18. Across from him, James Reimer stopped 13, but the biggest save for Florida came from Jared McCann preventing a rolling puck from falling in the net behind Reimer after a flurry of activity. Unfortunately, the Jets cashed in on a juicy rebound left in the slot. Forward Mathieu Perreault slid the puck into an open net with a minute left in the period.
Period Two: Scoring Opens Up
Florida broke through twice in the second frame, sandwiched around one goal from the Jets. First, Keith Yandle tied the game with a powerplay goal, assisted by Barkov. Then Laine broke through with a powerplay goal himself, getting both Finnish players on the scoresheet. Again the teams found themselves tied once Dadonov potted a tip-in to extend his streak.
Florida failed on a double minor opportunity in the second period. Their special teams rank near the bottom of the league. While they did score one powerplay goal, they failed on multiple other opportunities and gave up a goal on the penalty kill.
Period Three: Laine Completes Hat Trick
Two goals were scored in the final frame. Both goals from the Finnish-born Laine to complete the hat trick. Clearly, playing in his home country lit a fire for the Jet forward, who had just three goals coming into the match up. Florida went on to finish one-for-five on the powerplay. The Jets went two-for-six.
The shot count finished high, 38 to 36, in favor of Florida. Hellebuyck stood on his head, making multiple point-blank saves in each period. For the Panthers this game is just another in an already long list of games they’ve lost while outshooting their opponent.
Next: Friday Match-Up Concludes Global Series
Finnish fans hope to see their homegrown players continue to play well tomorrow for the conclusion of the Global Series. Laine might struggle to top the hat trick performance from today, but Barkov could improve on today’s single assist output.
Ultimately, the better team won today. Florida still seems to have issues in the same areas they’ve had all year. Three goals on 37 shots aren’t awful, but they could’ve used a big save from Reimer to keep the game even. Without McCann making a goal-line save earlier, it would’ve been another four goals against for Reimer too. Aside from goaltending, they lost the special teams battle as well. The Jets are a skilled group, and despite Florida having talented players, they simply aren’t clicking enough with the man advantage. The problem becomes even more glaring with the number of goals they allow on the penalty kill. Today’s game proves that point, as even getting the one powerplay goal ultimately didn’t do enough for them while allowing two powerplay goals against.
Expect the Panthers to come out hard tomorrow night in hopes to leave Finland with a win. It would be no surprise to see the matchup go to overtime at the very least as both teams leave it all on the ice.
Embed from Getty Images