Kyle Connor scores 2 goals, Jets rout Panthers 7-2
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Kyle Connor admitted he had a chip on his shoulder after he was demoted from the Winnipeg Jets’ top line.
Now that the rookie is back up with center Mark Scheifele and right winger Blake Wheeler, he wants to show that’s where he belongs.
He did Sunday night.
Connor scored twice, Wheeler and defenseman Tyler Myers each had three assists and the Jets beat the Florida Panthers 7-2 to take the Central Division lead.
Connor started the season with Wheeler and Scheifele, but he was moved to the fourth line late last month. Now he’s been back up for a few games and has reached 21 goals.
“Definitely,” Connor said when asked if he had something to prove after his demotion. “You’re given that much ice time, you got to prove yourself out there and work that much harder. You got to be good every night.”
Wheeler extended his points streak to five games. Scheifele has three goals and five assists during a four-game point roll.
″(Coach) put back our line together and what difference in (Connor’s) game,” Wheeler said. “Last game, he was all over every puck, created so many loose pucks for Scheif and I. It makes all the difference in the world for our line when he plays like that.”
Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault and Patrik Laine also scored and Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves to help the Jets win their third straight. They are 6-2-1 with a game left on a 10-game homestand.
Denis Malgin and Aleksander Barkov had power-play goals for Florida, and James Reimer stopped 27 shots.
“I think we played a good game, our first two periods,” Barkov said. “I don’t know, they just started scoring. We played a bad defensive game today and it cost us (the) whole game.”
The Panthers had won three straight.
“I wasn’t unhappy at 2-2 with 90 seconds to go in the second period,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “Even though we didn’t have great legs, I thought that we were managing the game OK.
“It got away from us in the third and that’s when the back-to-back hurts, I think, in the third period. That’s when you’re chasing and that’s when the brain starts going on you.”
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period and Winnipeg led 3-2 after two.
Winnipeg’s run of killing off 16 straight penalties ended at 8:57 of the first period when Malgin’s shot from the top of the right circle went high past Hellebuyck while Myers was in the box for tripping.
The Jets got their own power-play goal 13 seconds after Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk was penalized for boarding. Wheeler threaded a pass through defenders across the front of the net for Connor, who quickly shot the puck into the net as Reimer was moving over at 12:06.
Ehlers gave Winnipeg the 2-1 lead when his shot hit a Florida stick, the puck went up in the air and then rolled off Reimer’s back into the net at 4:39 of the second. It was his 23rd goal of the season.
Barkov was credited with his 20th after he got a piece of a shot Evgenii Dadonov swatted into the net 22 seconds after Jets forward Jack Roslovic was sent off for holding at 7:12.
A quick pass by Wheeler to Scheifele in the slot gave the Jets the 3-2 lead with 1:31 left in the second.
Connor scored his 21st goal in his rookie season on another pass from Wheeler into the slot at 3:38. Little notched his 13th less than three minutes later to make it 5-2. Perreault picked up his 16th, and Laine got his team-leading 27th with a backhand shot with 1:35 remaining.
Panthers: At Toronto on Tuesday night.
Winnipeg: Hosts Los Angeles on Tuesday night.