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Montoya stops 22 of 23 shots in cleanup

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AL MONTOYA'S job on Friday night?

If you've ever been the first one into the kitchen after a Christmas dinner, gravy and cranberry sauce smeared everywhere, that's kind of it.

But Montoya, the 28-year-old veteran, did a fine job of cleaning up a festive first-period mess and emerged with his sixth win of the season after the Jets won the third period for a 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild at the MTS Centre.

Montoya entered the game at 7:04 of the first period with the tally 3-2 for the visitors. Jets coach Claude Noel made the move after the Wild put three of its first six shots past starter Ondrej Pavelec.

"I felt it was really sloppy," said Montoya, describing the kitchen he found in Friday's game. "I felt there were plays where we left Pav out to dry. We can't be doing it. If we want to be successful in this league, we can't have a good 55-minute game.

"It's got to be 60 minutes from the net on out and we know that and it's about time we do it. It's nice to see us put it together there."

Montoya made 22 saves over the final 53 or so minutes.

Noel said later that he removed Pavelec not for poor play but to send a jolt through his team.

"We can't let our guy hang out to dry," the coach said, rather adamantly. "It's something you clearly cannot do."

Right-winger Blake Wheeler, who had two goals, including the third-period winner, was full-speed on that road.

"Especially after last game," Wheeler said. "That was gut-wrenching to watch... I mentioned it before the game (Pavelec is) a guy who's battled his tail off for us the last three years and there's been some times where Pavs has stole some games for us that maybe we shouldn't have won, times where it's probably not a whole lot of fun to be our goalie."

With regard to Friday's first period in which there were five goals in the first 7:04, Montoya said he's seen it all, well, almost.

"This is my job to be ready to support this team and be ready to go in at any given time," he said. "I'd like to say I've seen it all and (have been) put in every situation but it's about staying on your toes and knowing what got me here and being ready to go in and play your game."

The game eventually settled back to regular NHL hockey after a 4-3 first period.

"We were trading chances but that's not something you can do in this league," Montoya said. "There are too many guys who are too dangerous. You have to play the responsible defensive game and know the offence is going to come. About five minutes into my part, I feel like we settled down pretty good. Then outside of the power play in the second period, I didn't really see too much."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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

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