Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Montoya near-perfect in tough gig, as he must be

Backup's role a big one in any on-ice progress

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Al Montoya is like an emergency room doctor -- he never knows when he's going to get some action or what it will entail. But he'd better be near-perfect or the results will be disastrous.

Montoya got tapped on Thursday with his team in a dangerous tailspin and he provided the footing they needed to get stabilized.

Montoya was strong from beginning to end and gave his team key saves in difficult moments. His only sin was getting out of the way of a Steven Stamkos heater early in the third period of a 2-1 win for the Jets.

"That was great. We were embarrassed the last time we came in here for whatever reason and we knew we wanted to get that one back," said Montoya, referring to an 8-3 loss back on Feb. 1. "We knew this would be a tough road game and we had to keep the score down in this building and we did that."

Montoya is the understudy to No. 1 Ondrej Pavelec, who had reeled off 10 straight starts before coach Claude Noel determined it was time to give his starter a break.

"I've been in this league and done a lot of things. Played a lot of games and not played a lot of games. It's a matter of getting in there when you get a chance and doing your job," said Montoya.

One of the issues the Jets dealt with last season was the drop-off in goaltending when Pavelec gave way to backup Chris Mason. Montoya has been near-perfect when given the chance to play and now owns a 3-0 record.

"Montoya was good. He made a few key saves. He looked comfortable and like he could see the puck. He was good all night for me," said Noel. "That's a really tough task to come in every 10 games or so and do the job he did. Our hat goes off to him and his teammates appreciate the job he did."

There's so little room for error with the Jets now as they try and push for the playoffs and Pavelec can't play all the games. But when he's out, there can't be a letdown in goaltending. It's simply too important.

Montoya can't be a liability. He must be an asset, and he was just that on Thursday night.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2013 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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