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'Comfortable' Bowness back on bench as Jets win

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Published in Hockey
Friday, 24 November 2023 22:39

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 32 shots he faced, Dylan Samberg and Mason Appleton each had two assists and the Winnipeg Jets shut out the Florida Panthers 3-0 on Friday night.

Nino Niederreiter, Nikolaj Ehlers and Adam Lowry scored for the Jets in coach Rick Bowness' return from personal leave. Winnipeg is 12-5-2 on the season and went 9-2-2 under interim coach Scott Arniel while Bowness was away.

Bowness, in his second season as coach with the Jets, had been away from the club since Oct. 23, one day after his wife, Judy Bowness, had a seizure. The 68-year-old is in his 14th season as an NHL head coach and owns a 270-389-33 record with 48 ties in 740 career games behind the bench.

"Love it," Bowness said after the win, when asked how he felt behind the bench. "Comfortable."

After the morning skate, Bowness was asked about his wife's recovery, telling reporters she's "doing about as well as we could expect. She's getting stronger everyday."

The shutout was the first of the season for Hellebuyck, who had never before blanked the Panthers. It was the 33rd regular-season shutout of Hellebuyck's career.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves for the Panthers, who fell to 12-7-1, but his teammates were blanked on home ice for the first time in its past 127 games, including the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The loss ended the longest streak of games with at least one goal at home in club history. Before Friday, the last time Florida was shut out in Sunrise was a 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 24, 2021 -- a game played before about 3,000 fans because of the pandemic.

"We did some strange things tonight. We had some breakaways that we passed off and open plays that we decided not to hit," Florida coach Paul Maurice said. "The positive is that when your whole group is that bad, it's fixable. It's not something systemic that we've seen for a long time."

Winnipeg is now 4-0-0 in its past four games against Florida. That's the longest winning streak the Jets franchise has enjoyed over the Panthers since Atlanta beat Florida on six consecutive occasions spanning 2006 and 2007. The Thrashers relocated and became the Jets after the 2010-11 season.

"You can talk about all of the X's and O's you want but I just love the way we're sticking up for each other," Bowness said. "In these scrums, we're right in the middle of it and there is a lot of heart in that room. There is a lot of camaraderie in that room and I love the culture we've got going here."

It was the first instance of back-to-back home losses this season for Florida, which got captain Aleksander Barkov in the lineup again. Barkov had missed two games with a knee issue, but skated throughout the week and was cleared to return.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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