It's come to be expected from Ondrej Pavelec now, both the saves he makes on the ice and how he deftly deflects all the praise fired his way afterward.
So it was again on Sunday night, not long after the Winnipeg Jets netminder had kicked out 23 of 25 shots -- many of which fans will be seeing over and over again in highlight packages during the next few weeks -- in what was a critical 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
First, the praise.
From Claude Noel:
"You know what? Pavs has arguably been our best player for a long stretch of time. I'm just thankful he's in the net, let's put it that way. He plays very well and he really helps us. Look at the chance we gave up with four seconds to go in the second period. That's a huge save. I thought he did his part and more, and that's what he has been doing. He really helps us, and it shows."
From Blake Wheeler:
"It's almost bad... I think we always expect it out of him, and when we get scored on, it's kinda like, 'What's he doing back there?' Pav-o has been awesome for us. He was awesome again tonight. There was a few times they could have gotten back in the game and he shut the door. If you're going to win these tight games, you're going to need that out of your goalie, but at the same time, Pav-o has been spectacular."
But bring this up to Pavelec himself -- the lifting up of a team that needed a strong effort from its ace to stop the bleeding -- and he simply shrugs.
Extra pressure, given the back-to-back stink bombs against the Washington Capitals?
"Nope. Same as always," said Pavelec with a shrug. "There's always pressure every game, it doesn't matter if you are winning or if you are losing. We just focused on this one because we wanted to put this one behind us. It's not easy, but there's no choice if you want to make the playoffs and you want to get back on the winning track."
In the course of a four-minute scrum with the media, Pavelec praised the return of Toby Enstrom, spoke again of the importance of scoring the goal and as usual, spit out his trademark answer about this being a big win but 'tomorrow is another day.'
Pressed about his monumental save on Cory Conacher in the second period -- the Lightning rookie broke in on a breakaway, only to have the chance gobbled up by Pavelec's glove -- and the big puck-stopper again deflects the bouquets.
"Actually," he confesses with a grin, "I wanted to put my stick there and poke-check and I missed it. He did a good move and just put it in my glove. If he goes to the other side, it would have been a goal. I stuck on the top of the crease and try to make a save. I was happy to be able to make that save."
Then finally a teeny confession -- Pavelec admitted he does occasionally take a peek at the scoreboard after a save like that.
"I always look at the scoreboard," he said. "There's some funny things on it. I know the save; I don't have to see it again. But I always look upstairs and see what's going on."
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