DALLAS — They call Texas "The Lone Star State." And the good folks here take great pride in doing it up big here.
So it could be said the performance Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec served up in Saturday night’s 2-1 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars was certainly Texas-worthy.
The 26-year-old Czech was the best player on the ice at American Airlines Center — a left-alone star by his teammates on occasion — in what was arguably his top performance of the season.
And in the process he became the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers’ all-time leader in wins by a goaltender with 95 — ironically, surpassing the man in the Stars’ net, Kari Lehtonen.
"Oh really? I had no idea," said Pavelec when told of the stat after the game. "I mean, that’s good, but most importantly we got the win and we can go from tonight and another big one tomorrow. Yeah... good night.
"Right now I just feel like we just won another game, a really-important game. So... maybe (he’ll celebrate the achievement) later."
"He was good," added Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "We need him to be our best player and on a lot of nights we put a lot of pressure on him to do so. We feel he’s capable of that doing that. He bailed us out a couple of times."
THREE-GAME WINLESS STREAK BECOMES THREE-GAME POINT STREAK
The win evened the Jets’ record at 5-5-2 and means they have now picked up points in three straight games after a shootout loss to Washington and OT setback in Nashville earlier in the week.
"It was good road game for us," said coach Claude Noel. "I thought our team played fairly consistent. There were some ebbs and flows in the second period where we probably would have liked to have a little of it back.
"I thought Pavelec was superb again when he had to be. He had some key saves at some key times. We did a good job through the neutral zone, way better than the first time we played them (a 4-1 loss in Winnipeg) and I thought we controlled the (Tyler) Seguin line pretty good."
FYI, the Seguin line — featuring Rich Peverley and Jamie Benn on the wings — gobbled up the Jets back on Oct. 11th, racking up three goals and eight points total. Saturday night in Big D they were held off the scoresheet.
LATE-GAME DRAMATICS... AGAIN
The Jets carried a 1-0 lead into the third period after Evander Kane — who was a game-time decision after missing the morning skate with an ‘upper-body’ injury — scored sixth goal of the season in the second. But a seeing-eye-goal by Stephane Robidas through traffic pulled the Stars even at 1-1. Pavelec stepped up big time to earn the first point — his stop on Jamie Benn in the dying seconds left might have been his best — while the Jets killed off a too-many-men penalty that carried into the first 95 seconds into overtime.
"Our goalie was fantastic," said Noel. "We gave him some opportunities there, even at the end, that were point blank and he had to come up big. He made some really key saves. It’s getting to the point where we’re starting to expect that from Pavelec and he’s coming through big time for us."
THE SKILLS COMPETITION
Here’s how the shootout unfolded: Dallas shot first, with Jamie Benn failing. Jokinen followed, but missed, as did Alex Chiasson for the Stars. Andrew Ladd then beat Lehtonen before Pavelec sealed the deal with a stop on Ray Whitney.
"I usually have (a move) picked out before I go," explained Ladd. "Going second maybe allows you to see the goalie’s tendencies on the first shot and (Jets’ goaltending coach) Wade Flaherty does a good job of giving us some scouting stuff before the game, too."