By PAUL GEREFFI
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Dan Ellis is enjoying playing late in the season with a possible playoff berth on the line.
“It’s fun. This is a fun time of year to play hockey, whether you’re backing up or you get a chance to play the games,” said Ellis, who made 18 saves for the Panthers in his third consecutive start in place of the injured Roberto Luongo, a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.
Aleksander Barkov scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period for the Panthers.
The Panthers won their second consecutive game and have recorded at least one point in the past three games (2-0-1) with Ellis in goal. Ellis was recalled from the AHL on March 4 after Luongo and backup goalie Al Montoya were both injured on March 3 in a 3-2 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I haven’t had a chance to play many games in March,” Ellis said. “I’m glad to be here, glad to be able to contribute now, and it’s working out well.”
Brad Boyes and Derek Mackenzie also scored for Florida and Nick Bjugstad added an empty-netter with 46 seconds left.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr each had two assists.
The Panthers got a scare when Ellis took a knee from Andrew Ladd to his left side after Ladd was pushed into him at 18:44 of the third. Ellis was down on the ice briefly but stayed in the game.
Drew Stafford and Mark Scheifele scored for the Jets and Michael Hutchinson stopped 17 shots.
The Panthers remain six points behind the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins won 3-2 in a shootout against the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier on Thursday night.
“We played a great game,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Barkov shooting the puck like he can shoot it and scoring that goal, the go-ahead goal, was real big for us.”
Barkov gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead when he fired a shot from the right circle that went high into the net over Hutchinson’s glove with 3:53 left in the third.
“He skated right in and did a good job of using our defenseman as a screen,” Hutchinson said. “It was a good shot, went post in. I was just a little late picking it up from the screen.”
The Jets have lost three of their past four games.
“It was a tough game to move the puck,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “Some strange plays around our net, and a tough one at the end.”
Stafford tied it at 2 when he took a bouncing puck in front and poked it past Ellis at 6:13 of the third.
Boyes’ power-play goal gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead in the second. The shot from Boyes rebounded into the crease and Jets defenseman Adam Pardy attempted to clear the puck. Instead, the puck went off Pardy’s stick and into the net with 2:53 left in the second.
Scheifele tied the score 1-all when he rifled a shot from the top of the right circle that got past Ellis at 9:14 of the second.
MacKenzie gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead on a spectacular goal late in the first period. Dave Bolland passed across from the neutral zone on the right side and MacKenzie made a diving stab at the puck. MacKenzie got just enough of his stick on it to push the puck to the net. Hutchinson partially blocked the shot on the glove side but the puck got behind him and into the net with 3:32 left in the first.
“He (Bolland) makes an unbelievable pass,” MacKenzie said. “After that, I could try that 100 times and it wouldn’t work. I’ll account the rest of that to luck.”
NOTES: Jets D Tyler Myers left the game with an upper-body injury in the third and did not return. … C Bryan Little and D Dustin Byfuglien each missed their third game with an upper-body injury. … Huberdeau’s two assists give him 100 points in his NHL career. … Panthers D Aaron Ekblad, the first pick of the 2014 draft, returned after missing his first game of the season with the flu. … Bolland returned after missing eight games with an upper-body injury.
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