Sunrise, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Aleksander Barkov's tie-breaking goal with 3:53 remaining lifted the Florida Panthers to a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets at BB&T Center.
Nick Bjugstad tacked on an empty-net score to seal an important win for the Panthers, who entered the night six points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Derek MacKenzie and Brad Boyes had goals earlier to support an 18-save effort from Dan Ellis.
"This is a fun time of year to play hockey, whether you're backing up or you get a chance to play the games," Ellis said.
Michael Hutchinson stopped just 16-of-19 shots for Winnipeg, with Mark Scheifele and Drew Stafford lighting the lamp in the Jets' second consecutive defeat.
"I think frustrating is the word," Stafford said. "Now is the time we need every point possible. We just need to figure out a way to turn this thing around. We'll take what we can from this one and get ready for another tough challenge in Tampa."
Barkov snapped a 2-2 deadlock by taking a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau in the neutral zone and firing a shot past Hutchinson's glove in the 56th minute. Ellis thwarted a Winnipeg counterattack shortly afterward before Jussi Jokinen helped put it out of reach by forcing a turnover and sending the puck to Bjugstad, who wristed it into a vacated net with just 45.4 seconds on the clock.
Stafford had pulled the Jets even at 2-2 with 6:13 elapsed in the third period, with the veteran forward beating Ellis from close range after taking in a give from Michael Frolik.
MacKenzie's highlight-reel goal was the memorable moment of an otherwise uneventful opening period. The Florida forward raced to the net to tip a no- look pass from Dave Bolland sent from the right boards through Hutchinson's legs as MacKenzie was falling to the ice 3:32 prior to the first intermission.
The Jets tied it near the midway mark of the second period when Scheifele ripped home a shot to finish off a transition rush. A cross-checking penalty to Winnipeg's Stuart with 4:15 left in the frame enabled Florida to move back in front, however.
On the resulting power play, Boyes redirected in a puck sent towards the net from Huberdeau to give the Panthers a 2-1 edge.
Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr each had two assists from Florida ... Ellis made his third straight start in net for the Panthers with Roberto Luongo still sidelined by a shoulder injury suffered last week ... Frolik extended his career-high point streak to eight games with an assist on Stafford's goal. The onetime Panther has five goals and three helpers during the stretch ... Bolland was back in the Panthers' lineup after missing eight games with an upper-body injury ... Jets defenseman Tyler Myers exited the game in the second period with an upper-body issue.