You got the feeling that the Panthers just wanted to get home.
Playing their final game of a six-game road trip on Tuesday night, the Panthers could only watch as the Winnipeg Jets laid an 8-2 licking on a tired and a seemingly disinterested Panthers team.
Eight points out of a possible 12 is nothing to turn your nose up at, but the Panthers surely didn’t see the train wreck they were about to feature in.
From the onset, the wear and tear of the trip started to show its cracks, with fatigue endlessly seeping through each wound.
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“We had a great trip, but to end it off like this with a performance like [Tuesday night’s], we’re disappointed,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “It wasn’t one guy, it wasn’t one line — it was every player on our team.’’
After decisive wins over Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, it was the last remaining Western Conference Canadian team that was able crack the Panthers’ code.
The Panthers strolled into a chilly Winnipeg riding a three-game win streak and a 4-1-0 record in their previous five games.
The Jets, smelling blood, made their move.
Mathieu Perreault opened up the game’s scoring (and what would be the start of a four-goal night), latching onto a slick feed by Zach Bogosian from behind the goal line, giving Winnipeg a 1-0 lead at the 7:24 mark of the first period.
With Nick Bjugstad in the box for hooking, after saving a sure goal off the stick of Bryan Little, Perreault scored his second of the period after finding himself all alone at the hashmarks to the left of Roberto Luongo.
Jimmy Hayes came close to perhaps changing the course of the game as Perreault’s second marker was being announced, beating Michael Hutchinson but not his best friend, the post.
With the foot planted on the gas pedal, the Jets were back at it again early in the second as Dustin Byfuglien streaked across the blue line and wired one past a helpless Luongo to make it 3-0.
Dave Bolland would pull the Panthers within two early in the second with his first of the season. Bolland, who had all sorts of time to bang in a rebound and discard the monkey off his back, contributed the lone notable event for the Panthers on the night.
It was short-lived.
Byfuglien struck pay dirt once again, converting from a bad angle that beat a sprawling Luongo. The goal, Luongo’s fourth allowed on 20 shots, proved to be his demise on the night as he was yanked from the cage.
Al Montoya, summoned in relief, didn’t fair much better.
Perreault would net his third and fourth goals on the night 69 seconds apart to put this one well beyond the reach of even the most heroic of comebacks.
“We were just not prepared,” Panthers defenseman Willie Mitchell said. “I take responsibility. I’ve got to get the guys more prepared. It was a long road trip, and some bad habits starting creeping in in Edmonton. You saw those early.”