UNIONDALE, N.Y. - He had just finished an acrobatic goaltending routine that would have had fellow Czech legend Dominic Hasek positively beaming and a Ringling Bros. recruiter offering up a lucrative contract to run away and join the circus as a star act.
And yet when a media scrum approached Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec following a stellar performance in a 3-0 shutout of the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Thursday night, the man of the moment deflected any praise like he was kicking out one of the 34 shots he turned aside in victory.
An exaggeration? The opening question:
"Was that a fun one to be a part of?"
Pavelec: "I guess."
Praised for his work, he lamented the sloppy defensive play in the second period. Offered up a softball about a gritty win given the circumstances -- regular defencemen Tobias Enstrom, Mark Stuart, Ron Hainsey and Derek Meech are all injured -- and he singled out the work of the penalty-kill unit and newcomers Mark Flood and Brett Festerling.
And so it was left for others to rave about the performance of a goaltender in a game in which the Jets were out-shot 34-26, but still managed to pick up a critical victory courtesy of goals by Evander Kane, Johnny Oduya and Alex Burmistrov into an empty net.
Consider these, then, Pavelec’s glowing off-Broadway reviews:
"He’s been incredible. He gives us a chance to win every night and he’s making big saves when he has to, and some of them he shouldn’t be making, but he’s still pulling them out.
"Pav’s playing great right now and that’s what you need to win on the road: a great goalie stealing you some points." -- Jets winger Tanner Glass
"I can’t emphasize it enough: Pavs played an unbelievable game. He kept us in there the whole time. I won’t say we got away with one because we were solid in the third, but..." -- Jets defenceman Johnny Oduya
"Pavelec was outstanding. He did everything to win that game. He battled hard, he was into it, and I thought he was fabulous again for us tonight." -- Jets head coach Claude Noel
The spectacular effort earned Pavelec his fifth career shutout and the first for the franchise since knocking off the New York Rangers 3-0 last April 7th in the second-last game in Atlanta Thrashers’ history. And get this: Since being yanked then re-inserted in a 9-8 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers a week ago, Pavelec is 2-1 (the lone defeat a 1-0 loss in Tampa) while having stopped 99 of 103 shots.
Not too shabby, right?
"First of all, I think we had something like 20 blocked shots," Pavelec said. "That’s amazing. The guys on the PK did a great job. We had two new guys in this game and they did a great job, but I don’t know what’s up with Jonesy (defenceman Randy Jones, who left the game in the third after taking a shot off the ankle). We’ll see tomorrow. The guys who stepped in tonight did a great job.
"Those are the games you want to play. It’s not the way you want to play, but sometimes it goes this way. We got two points and that’s all that matters. We know we’ve got to be better next game."
And with that, the first star of an important road win for the Jets brought down his guard -- if only for a moment.
"I feel very good," he said with a smile. "Sometimes goaltending goes like that. We got the two points. And to win a game you need a whole team, right?"