Florida Panthers top Winnipeg Jets, lose Stephen Weiss for season
Tuesday’s win, which ended a three-game losing streak, followed the bad news: Stephen Weiss will undergo season-ending surgery.
03/06/2013 12:01 AM
03/16/2014 9:49 PM
When general manager Dale Tallon met with the media Tuesday morning to update the Panthers’ injury situation, he did so from memory.
Impressive, considering the list seems to be growing by the hour.
Tallon left the biggest news until last: Stephen Weiss, the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, will undergo season-ending wrist surgery.
The Panthers might have eight regulars on the shelf, but they played a complete game Tuesday as they ended a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Winnipeg at BB&T Center.
“Things are just day-to-day for us,” coach Kevin Dineen said. “That’s the way the season has been. Every day, you have a long-term plan, but you throw some audibles in there. Getting a hard-earned win like this gives you breath for a day. That’s a good thing.”
Tallon’s bombshell regarding Weiss came hours before rookie Jacob Markstrom took over as Florida’s starting goaltender for what the franchise hopes is a very long time.
Markstrom, 23, made 30 saves in his third start of the season and 11th of his brief NHL career. Tuesday’s game came with an asterisk, however, as it was his first after being anointed Florida’s starter. Markstrom said he didn’t treat Tuesday’s game differently than any other.
“I’m just going out to play and have as much fun as possible, play as well as I can,” said Markstrom, who has surrendered seven goals in three starts.
Pegged as Florida’s “goalie of the future” since being the 31st overall pick in 2008, the Markstrom Era began a little sooner than the Panthers had hoped it would. Jose Theodore tore a groin muscle early in Saturday’s loss at Carolina and is out indefinitely.
“We were hoping to hold off, but let’s go,” Tallon said Tuesday morning. “Let’s see if he can do it. I’m very confident he can.”
Said coach Kevin Dineen: “It’s time to stop talking about potential and get to the real deal.”
Markstrom played well and got goal support from all over: Tomas Kopecky, Shawn Matthias, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Santorelli all scored.
Huberdeau, Florida’s rookie of the year candidate, scored his team-leading 11th goal as he became the first in franchise history to score on two penalty shots in the same season. Huberdeau also became the first rookie to do it in over a decade.
“I’m just trying to create my chance and that led to the penalty shot,” Huberdeau said. “If there was an assist, give it to Peter Mueller. He set me up on both of them.”
Markstrom’s first game as Florida’s starter might have been in its first of many without Weiss.
After more than a decade since joining the team and becoming the face of the franchise, Weiss’ final game with the Panthers could have been Sunday’s forgettable 3-2 loss to Carolina.
A pending free agent, Weiss said he needs wrist surgery after undergoing similar surgery in 2009.
Weiss, in his 11th season, was having his worst statistical season since his rookie season in 2002-03 when he had one goal in his first 32 games. He had one goal on just 19 shots this season.
“It has not been easy,” Tallon said. “This was not good news to start the day. But that’s part of hockey, part of this condensed season.”
It was obvious there was something wrong with Weiss, whose teammates said he had trouble gripping the stick. Weiss, who turns 30 on April 3, came into Tuesday’s game ranked tied for 736th -- dead last -- in the NHL with a minus-13 rating.
Florida is also down three regular defensemen in Dmitry Kulikov (out a month), Mike Weaver (four to six weeks) and Ed Jovanovski (at least 10 days). Weiss is one of four forwards out. The others: Sean Bergenheim (season), Kris Versteeg (day-to-day) and Scottie Upshall (week).
Jon Rheault, 26, was the latest to be called up and made his NHL debut Tuesday. He was one of eight in Florida’s lineup who had played in the minors this season.
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