WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Reilly Smith is still thankful he ended up with Florida.
Smith, traded from Boston last summer, had two goals and Jaromir Jagr scored the winner to send the Panthers past the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Tuesday night.
"It’s awesome when you join a new team and you’re able to contribute like this," Smith said. "Obviously, I’ve been given a great opportunity here and I’ve tried to do my best not to squander it."
Smith has a career-high 21 goals for Florida, which regained sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division by moving two points ahead of idle Tampa Bay. He has 38 points in 63 games, two points short of the total he posted in 81 games with the Bruins last season.
Jagr scored his 21st of the season, and Vincent Trocheck assisted on both of Smith’s goals.
"I’m playing with great players," Smith said. "It seems like they’re trying to set me up all the time."
Dustin Byfuglien and rookie Andrew Copp scored in the second period for Winnipeg, which lost its fifth straight home game and remains last in the Central Division.
Roberto Luongo made 30 saves for the Panthers, who improved to 1-1-1 on a five-game road trip.
Ondrej Pavelec stopped 19 shots for the Jets, who began a five-game homestand. They are 13-15-1 at MTS Centre and play a season-high 11 home games in March.
"Just one of those things," Byfuglien said about the poor showing in front of Winnipeg’s fans. "We try. It’s not because of lack of effort. It’s just, things ain’t gone our way."
Winnipeg led 2-1 going into the third period, but Smith’s second goal on the power play, while Copp was in the penalty box for slashing Trocheck, tied it at 1:46.
"I kind of tried to go hard, low on his stick and they called it and I understand," Copp said. "His stick came out of his hands.
"That’s a penalty that I don’t really want to take, but I was just trying to be aggressive and make a play."
It put a damper on Copp’s second goal of the season, and first since Oct. 31.
"Maybe a little bit," he said. "You don’t want to contribute anything negatively to the team, and obviously that penalty was a turning point."
Jagr made it 3-2 just 1:45 later when his shot went off the stick of Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. Jagr is two points from tying Gordie Howe (1,850) for third in NHL history.
"It’s ridiculous, honestly," the 24-year-old Smith said when asked what it’s like to play with the 44-year-old Jagr. "You’ve kind of got to think twice, just because you don’t want to squander the moments you have with pretty much a living legend, right? He’s done a great job for our team this year."
Smith scored the game’s first goal at 13:48 of the first. Trocheck brought the puck over the blue line and sent a pass over to Smith as he skated straight at Pavelec and redirected the puck into the net.
The Jets challenged the play, claiming Trocheck was offside, but the review was inconclusive and the goal stood.
Luongo turned aside 16 shots in the first period, while Pavelec let in one of the five he faced.
Byfuglien made it 1-all when he banged in a rebound off Nikolaj Ehlers’ shot in front of the net at 5:23 of the second.
Copp scored a couple of minutes later on a breakaway, just a second after a Winnipeg penalty expired.
Alexander Burmistrov sent Copp a pass from near center ice. He gloved it down, went in on Luongo, deked and shot the puck between his pads at 7:58.
"Obviously, the first two periods weren’t great," Luongo said. "But we had a good third period, we got the job done and even when we took the lead I thought they didn’t have much, they didn’t create much.
"We really started to skate in the third and that’s why we played much better there."
It was another case of the Jets failing in the final period, and Byfuglien had no explanation for why that happens.
"I thought we played a pretty good game through most of the game," he said. "I didn’t think they had too much control of the game at any point. Just little things."
NOTES: Winnipeg outshot the Panthers 16-5 in the first period and 9-5 in the second. But in the third, Florida had 12 shots to seven for the Jets. … Winnipeg went on the power play with 1:01 left in the game when Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson, playing in his 300th NHL game, was called for interference. … The Jets host the New York Islanders on Thursday, while Florida travels to Colorado for a game the same day.
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