SUNRISE, Fla. — Ondrej Pavelec was his team’s best player Friday night as he stopped 38 of 40 shots to give the Winnipeg Jets the ballast needed to earn a 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers.
Pavelec was ordinary in a loss to the Panthers earlier this week and was given a rest on Thursday to watch his understudy Al Montoya lead the Jets in a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jets coach Claude Noel suggested Pavelec looked tired on Tuesday, but the goalie bristled at the suggestion after Friday’s victory.
"I wasn’t tired. We just didn’t play good. The game didn’t go the way I wanted and it doesn’t mean I was tired. We just didn’t show up. But we won Thursday night and we did again here, and it’s nice to go back-to-back. We didn’t do that last year," said Pavelec.
The win moved the Jets to 12-11-1 and gives them a 2-1 record on this four-game road trip with one more to go.
❚ Captain Andrew Ladd pumped in his 13th of the season on a long wrist shot that trickled past Florida goalie Jacob Markstrom.
The Jets big line of Ladd, centre Bryan Little and right wing Blake Wheeler was Winnipeg’s best all night.
Wheeler made it 2-0 for the Jets as he danced around the offensive zone, buying himself some real estate and then whipped a wrister by Markstrom.
The Panthers stayed in the game, scoring with just under 13 seconds left in the period as Jonathan Huberdeau poked the puck past Pavelec in a goal-mouth scramble.
❚ Both teams were held off the board in the second frame but Winnipeg got into some penalty trouble and Pavelec was the difference, keeping his team ahead 2-1.
"The penalty-killing has been one of our bread-and-butters. Again, you look at Thursday night with Montoya and you look (Friday) with Pavelec, what can you say? If you get that kind of goaltending, it affords you to make some mistakes on the penalty-killing," said Noel. "We’ve got that the last two games. Our penalty-killing has come up big, but our goaltender has been huge as well."
❚ The Panthers evened the score at 2-2 in the third period on a Shawn Matthias goal as he took a cross-ice feed from Tomas Kopecky and flipped the puck by a sprawling Pavelec.
❚ Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien saw the game was there for the taking and he took it. Byfuglien gained the Panthers’ zone and circled around until he saw and opening and pounced, beating Markstrom from the slot.
After the buzzer
❚ Killer killers: The Jets are 11-for-11 on this road trip on the penalty-kill. "Another huge thing was the penalty-kill again. It was the reason why we won (Thursday) night. We killed a 5-on-3 in that game and (Friday) we did a great job again," said Pavelec. "That’s huge for us, especially the last few games. But we’ve got one more game on the road and we’ve got to be ready for Sunday."