ST. PAUL, Minn. — The head coach gave his rookie goaltender a vote of confidence — and the rookie goaltender responded by giving the head coach another winning performance.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The head coach gave his rookie goaltender a vote of confidence — and the rookie goaltender responded by giving the head coach another winning performance.

Starting in back-to-back games for the first time this season, Michael Hutchinson was just good enough Saturday night to backstop the Winnipeg Jets to their sixth victory in Hutchinson’s last eight starts, a 4-3 overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild.

The presence of Hutchinson in the net was significant because head coach Paul Maurice had been alternating starts between Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec for the previous 14 games and Pavelec was due to start Saturday, according to the pattern.

Maurice downplayed the switch Saturday, explaining it was made because Hutchinson — the team’s backup to start the season — was better suited to the start, coming as it did after a three-day Christmas layoff during which the Jets neither played or practiced.

But with the Jets winning yet again with Hutchinson in net — and improving to 6-1-1 in the last eight games Hutchinson has started — Maurice was asked if the youngster might now get a third straight consecutive start when the Jets play the Wild in the rematch between Monday at the MTS Centre.

Maurice was coy.

"I’ve got a pretty good idea who’s going," said Maurice. "But (I’m) hanging on to that for now. It’s more fun that way, isn’t it?"

Maurice was adamant earlier Saturday the decision to start Hutchinson had nothing to do with his league-leading goals-against and save percentage numbers or the fact the Jets are just 3-1-3 in Pavelec’s last seven starts.

"Not even a bit," Maurice insisted. "This is all schedule."

Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson stops Wild centre Charlie Coyle.

ANN HEISENFELT / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson stops Wild centre Charlie Coyle.

While Hutchinson was not at his best Saturday night — a goal by the Wild’s Jason Pominville in the third period was unscreened and came from a very sharp angle — he was still solid in turning away 22 of 25 shots, many of which came in flurries.

"The guy’s a freak back there," Jets forward Blake Wheeler said of Hutchinson. "He just battles so hard for us. We’re lucky to have him between the pipes."

Hutchinson was asked following the game if he felt like anything significant had changed in his status with Maurice’s decision yesterday to give Hutchinson a second straight start.

"Not really," said Hutchinson. "It’s just one more game and I was fortunate to help the team win tonight. And that’s the only thing that matters. It doesn’t matter what the rotation is or who’s playing.

"As long as we win, that’s the main thing."

Maurice’s decision to start Hutchinson — which he insisted was made weeks ago when he looked at the calendar — came after Maurice told reporters Monday he liked his goalie rotation and saw no reason to change it, given his club’s success over the past month or so.

Asked about the rotation again Saturday, Maurice insisted nothing is set in stone.

"I haven’t been as committed to the rotation (alternating goalies) as maybe people think. We kind of just looked at it and like what we’re doing," he said.

"Honestly, don’t overthink the set-in ‘stonedness’ of any of this. Because it hasn’t been like that. The only thing that’s probably true right now is they both played well enough over a stretch that if they had a rough night, that wouldn’t end it for them. They’re going to get back in that net. They both earned the right to be back in the net quickly."

JETSTREAM: Winnipeg forward Mathieu Perreault saw his league-leading eight-game points streak come to an end Saturday night.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.