Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets' win the first of its kind

Team proves they have the flight stuff

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In this kind of dire strait -- 0-3 and deserving of it -- the Winnipeg Jets needed a big game from somebody.

They had two somebodies step to the front of the bus on Monday night, getting two major assists from second-year pro Alexander Burmistrov and an A game from goalie Ondrej Pavelec to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 at the MTS Centre.

It was the first victory for the reborn franchise in Winnipeg, quelling an early firestorm of criticism over disinterested and disorganized play.

Pavelec, who entered the game with two losses and a sub-standard .833 save percentage, was called on to perform against some high-quality Pittsburgh chances, and several times he brought the crowd to its feet.

Pavelec ended the game with 27 saves.

Burmistrov had been relatively quiet in the Jets' first three outings with one assist, but certainly hadn't stuck out as a liability any more than most of his teammates.

He got started quickly and earned critical final-minutes ice time Monday night.

At the end of the game, he was part of the crew that defended the high-pressure Pittsburgh attack.

The fans, at the conclusion to a spirited third period, nearly blew the roof of the downtown arena with their first-win glee, more what they had in mind after the historic opening-game loss a week ago Sunday.

As disappointing as the first three games were, Game 4 offered a lot more hope.

And precisely at puck-drop.

On the opening faceoff, Pittsburgh defenceman Zbynek Michalek fell down, leaving the Jets to go directly to a three-on-one rush and when Kyle Wellwood finished of Burmistrov's crossing pass, the Jets had a goal just eight seconds after the start.

It tied the franchise record set in 2003.

It brought the sell-out crowd of 15,004 out of their seats and it carried the limping home team to a better level instantaneously.

Near the end of the period, the Jets had their second goal and Burmistrov was in the middle of things again.

He outraced and outmuscled Penguins defenceman Kris Letang for the puck as he crossed into the Pittsburgh zone and then spotted Tanner Glass trailing the play.

With a perfectly teed-up puck, Glass buried a high shot past Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury just 1:33 before the intermission.

The second period was more even and the Jets had to rely on Ondrej Pavelec for at least three Grade A saves.

But shortly after he denied Richard Park and Pascal Dupuis of goals within a one-minute span, the Pens won an offensive-zone faceoff and Michalek's well-timed one-timer from the point found the net just as Matt Cooke was racing into Pavelec's vision.

There was contact as the puck sailed by but officials clearly ruled that it took place outside the blue paint. The crowd did not like the non-call, but the goal stood just 1:38 from the second intermission.

The task ahead remains daunting for the transplanted franchise.

The Jets visit the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night, then meet the Senators in Ottawa on Thursday.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 18, 2011 C3

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