NEW YORK — He has become a human pincushion for criticism and has been stuck smack dab in the crosshairs longer than any other player in Winnipeg Jets double blue and white.

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NEW YORK — He has become a human pincushion for criticism and has been stuck smack dab in the crosshairs longer than any other player in Winnipeg Jets double blue and white.

And, let’s face it, Ondrej Pavelec would have to lead the Jets to a Stanley Cup — and win the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process — to silence some of his harshest critics.

Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Ladd (16) knocks down New York Rangers' Marc Staal (18) in front of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (30) during first period NHL hockey at Madison Square Garden in New York City Saturday.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Ladd (16) knocks down New York Rangers' Marc Staal (18) in front of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (30) during first period NHL hockey at Madison Square Garden in New York City Saturday.

In the meantime the Czech goaltender will try to win over the naysayers one save at a time, including the 38 he kicked out Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in a 1-0 shootout win over the New York Rangers.

It was the 12th shutout in Pavelec’s NHL career and first since Nov. 8, 2013 in a 5-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

This one has less cushion, however, as Pavelec was in the firing line from the opening puck drop, through a stop on a Martin St. Louis breakaway in overtime and then in stopping three of four in the shootout.

"It wasn’t an easy game for us," Pavelec said afterward.

"This is a tough building to play in and I don’t think we were ready to play for the first two periods. But we found a way to win, and after the last game I said we should find a way to close the game and win and I think we did tonight.

"It doesn’t matter how. We just battled out there through the third and into overtime... good win.

"I felt really good. I tried to stay calm, just be patient and wait for shots. And, actually, it worked. I’m happy for the shutout for sure, but the most important thing is we got the two points."

The win evens the Jets’ record at 5-5-1, gives them points in four straight contests and also means they are 2-0-1 on this four-game road trip that wraps up tonight in Chicago.

 

THE GANG THAT COULDN’T SHOOT STRAIGHT

 

The Jets came into the game averaging just two goals per outing, and those numbers will drop after being blanked by Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist through 65 minutes. New York was down to four defencemen after losing both captain Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein in the first period — as well, Dan Boyle is on the injured list; John Moore suspended — but the Jets still couldn’t get to the Ranger net for second and third chances.

Lundqvist stopped 25 shots, the Jets had 20 more blocked and missed the net another 17 times.

"We looked like a team that was playing five (games) in nine (days) and (the Rangers) have been sitting for five days," said Jets coach Paul Maurice. "The puck was not our friend tonight by any means. You felt when your goaltender got you through two periods with zeros you had a chance to win the game."

 

THE SPECIAL TEAMS: SOME SPECIAL, SOME NOT

 

The Jets killed off five Rangers power plays, limiting New York to 11 shots total with the man advantage. But they were also 0-for-3 on the power play and are just 3-for-37 this season. That 8.1 per cent success rate is 27th in the NHL.

 

EXTRA FUN/SHOOTOUT

The teams were wide open in the overtime, trading once chance after another. Pavelec’s stop on St. Louis was critical in sending the game into the skills competition.

"He kind of surprised me a little bit. He shot it a little bit quicker than I expected," said Pavelec of the St. Louis chance. "It just hit my elbow or shoulder. Lucky there."

Matts Zuccarello and Blake Wheeler both scored on each team’s first shootout chance, but Pavelec then stopped Rick Nash, Dominic Moore and St. Louis. After misses by Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little, Evander Kane beat Lundqvist for the Jets win.

"It was an ugly game for the most part," said Kane.

"Pavs did a helluva job keeping us in the game, especially early on in the first couple of periods and it put myself in position to get the game-winner.

"I thought about (what he would do in the shootout) when I was standing out there. I knew what I was going to do: try and pull him off the post a little bit and sneak it short side and it was able to work.

"I love playing in New York."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

 

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