Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Victory was no Picasso, but a decent Montoya

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If you ever wondered what elation, satisfaction and relief might look like when mixed together, it was perfectly depicted by the look on Al Montoya's face right around 10 p.m. Sunday night.

Check that -- it was the same look being worn by just about every player in Winnipeg Jets colours after a sloppy, all-over-the-place, but highly entertaining 5-4 overtime win over the New York Islanders that was Montoya's first with his new squad.

"That's awesome," said Montoya, who kicked out 21 of 25 shots. "I mean, I couldn't have written it any better. Coming from a building and an organization... well, it was great playing with the Islanders, but we were lucky to get 10,000 fans a night and that was empty.

"To come here in a stadium like this where they support hockey next to none, it's special. And to give them a win going away from here is great."

But this victory was hardly like the others in this young 2013 season. In fact, it was completely against the grain when compared to the wins over Washington and Pittsburgh last week. The attention to detail defensively was lost. The turnovers were appalling and regular, just as were passes into skates and the mental mistakes in their defensive zone.

Head coach Claude Noel said afterward that it was hardly a Picasso. But it was a win.

Now, the Jets' party line this year has been to not to read anything too deeply into any victory or loss. Fair enough. But even with all its flaws and warts this one did provide some revealing characteristics. The Jets got contributions from its third line against the Islanders, with both Alex Burmistrov and Alexei Ponikarovsky scoring their first goals of the season, while the power play came alive with a critical goal by Dustin Byfuglien that narrowed a 4-2 Islander lead in the third to a single goal and set up a thrilling finish.

Just as important was this: Montoya, playing in his first game since April of 2011, gave the Jets just enough to eke out a victory. He wasn't perfect -- far from it -- but neither was the crew in front of him. And that has to speak volumes about what the Jets did Sunday night, too.

They vowed not to take the Islanders lightly and, for stretches, did just that. But if maturation is also represented by getting up off the mat after getting socked in the lips, then the Jets showed that when it mattered most late in the third.

And to do it with their No. 1 goaltender on the bench and Montoya in the net could be critical when this condensed schedule hits crunch time later in the spring. So let the man enjoy his moment.

"I waited until that last second in overtime when the goal went in to listen to the fans, and then you hear them erupt," Montoya said. "There's nothing sweeter.

"I thought I gave the team a chance, at the same time, I wanted a few saves. But to get that win... that's all it's about. It's about that getting that win and giving this team a chance. That's why I'm here." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2013 C1


Updated on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 11:40 AM CST: Alex Burmistrov and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored their first goals of the season.

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