Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stuart goal had inner beauty

Hardly one for highlight reels, but the effort was admirable

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Mark STUART isn't usually the type to appear on the nightly TV highlight packages.

His game is about being defensively sound, blocking shots and doing the little things that often get overlooked when the highlights-of-the-night are pieced together by producers and editors.

And his game-winning goal in Saturday's 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils won't be shown over and over again as one of the classics of the NHL season.

Or even one of the gems from Saturday.

But he'll sure as heck take it.

"I kinda ran out of room and had to throw it at the net. It was a lucky bounce... but I'll take it," said the veteran defenceman.

The Jets and Devils were tied 2-2 with just over six minutes left when Stuart pinched from the point and threw the puck at New Jersey goaltender Johan Hedberg. And in the ensuing scramble -- which featured Evander Kane crashing into the pile in front of the net -- the goal crossed the line. It was reviewed by the NHL command centre in Toronto before being ruled a good goal.

"Stu made a really nice move around their guy and shot it from a bad angle and it was just bouncing," said Kane. "I was just trying to dig... I don't know if I got my stick on it or not, but it went in and that was the main thing. It was a great play by him."

"I shouldn't have let that come through in the first place," said Hedberg. "I have no idea if it's in or not. I'm in the back of the net myself. For whatever reason that is I'm not sure. The last three reviews we've had they've been either taking away a goal from us or giving them the benefit of the doubt. It's tough. I'm in the back and when I'm trying to reach back I get pushed in. Interference? I don't know... probably. It's hard to tell."

JUICY NUMBERS: Jets D-man Dustin Byfuglien had an assist in the win, the 100th of his career... Alexander Burmistrov played in his 100th NHL game... The Devils have scored five goals in two games against the Jets, with rookie Adam Henrique potting three of them... Kane's two goals gives him 12 points (9G, 3A) in his last nine games. Linemate Bryan Little had two assists, giving him 11 points (5G, 6A) in his last nine games while second linemate Blake Wheeler had an assist tonight, giving him eight points (2G, 6A) in his last eight games.

QUICK START ARTISTS: The Jets have scored 30 first-period goals this season, second place in the NHL behind Philadelphia (33). That stat is relevant for this reason: Winnipeg is 8-3-2 when scoring first.

Kane, it's worth noting, has scored the first goal of the game for the Jets five times this year.

DANGEROUS WHEN DOWN: Alex Burmistrov's short-handed goal was the Jets third of the season. New Jersey has allowed seven shorties this year, most in the NHL.

"That was a huge goal," said Jets' netminder Ondrej Pavelec. "We played good defensively and it was good to learn from that. The last two games were against great teams in Phoenix and Jersey and now we know we can play against those guys. Finally, we are closing those games and it's huge for our future."

NO REST FOR THE WICKED: Pavelec was steady again against the Devils and while head coach Claude Noel won't tip his hand, it's likely the Czech netminder will get the call again Tuesday against Boston.

Here's Noel when asked how many more games Pavelec can keep starting:

"Why, does he look like he's falling apart? He looked pretty good. That save he made in the third on that dot-to-dot play (on Patrik Elias) was pretty impressive. He wants to play all the games. I'm not worried too much about him. You can't let them dictate those things, but when he's playing like that it's hard to get him out of the net. You've just kinda roll with what you've got."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 4, 2011 B2

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