WINNIPEG - Kris Versteeg had three goals and an assist Thursday as the Florida Panthers continued their great start to the season with a 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
Jason Garrison and Mike Santorelli also scored to help Florida (8-4-3) build a 4-0 lead after two periods. Brian Campbell added three assists as the Panthers won their second consecutive game and have now earned points in six straight contests.
Tim Stapleton and Andrew Ladd replied for the Jets (5-8-3), who were sluggish and unable to mount any sort of attack in the first two periods. Coming off a season-long seven-game road trip, Winnipeg went more than 23 minutes without a shot on goal during one span, and had only 10 shots through 40 minutes.
A sedate crowd at the usually raucous MTS Centre finally found some hope as the Jets cut the Florida lead in half six minutes into the third period. Stapleton scored a power-play goal and Andrew Ladd tipped in a Zach Bogosian blast from the point to cut the Panthers' lead to 4-2.
The Jets peppered Florida goalie Jose Theodore with 17 shots in the period, but couldn't draw any closer. Theodore finished with 25 saves.
Jets coach Claude Noel kept starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec on the bench for the third period after he allowed four goals on 15 shots, replacing him with backup Peter Mannino. Mannino, a callup from the St. John's IceCaps of the AHL, stopped all four shots he faced.
Versteeg opened the scoring with a pair of first-period goals, including one on the first shot Pavelec faced at 7:14. He added a power-play goal at 17:27 and an empty-net goal late in the third for the hat trick.
Garrison blasted a shot past a screened Pavelec to make it 3-0 in the second period after an extended spell of 6-on-5 play on a delayed penalty call.
The Panthers scored their second power-play goal of the night when Santorelli beat Pavelec. The Jets have now given up six power-play goals in their last two games.
Notes: Jets forward Eric Fehr participated in contact drills for the first time this season during the morning skate, but the team still hasn't said when he'll return from a shoulder injury. ... Florida winger Jack Skille was booed every time he touched the puck, in response to his hit on Oct. 31 that broke the collarbone of Jets defenceman Tobias Enstrom. ... Canada Post unveiled three Jets-themed stamps on Thursday to commemorate the return of NHL hockey to Winnipeg.