Winnipeg Jets vs. Montreal Canadiens, Mar. 26, 2015
Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 26/3/2015 (2444 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It wasn’t too long ago Ondrej Pavelec was persona non grata in this town. He could light up the lines on sports-talk radio, was cursed during every coffee break in every office, slammed at watering holes from the moment the saloon doors swung open to last call.
And now the man can not only safely venture out into public, but likely will have his tab picked up at virtually every eatery from St. Norbert to the North End, from Headingley to Transcona.
The veteran Czech netminder was brilliant again Thursday night, absolutely stoning the Montreal Canadiens over and over again in a 5-2 Jets victory that keeps them above the NHL’s playoff line with just seven games left in the regular season.
Get this: Stapled to the end of the Jets bench as recently as two weeks ago as Michael Hutchinson made seven consecutive starts in goal, Pavelec has been reborn over the last little spell, reeling off six straight wins while posting a goals-against average of 1.17 and a save percentage of .964
"My run? I’m happy I can help the team get the win, and that’s all that matters right now," said Pavelec with a shrug.
"So, really, I don’t want to talk about myself. It’s a team sport and we found a way. It wasn’t an easy game for us, but we battled hard."
FYI: Pavelec is now unbeaten in his Bruce Springsteen-themed goalie mask. Spotted in the crowd was a fan holding up a sign that read ‘Pavelec is the Boss.’
"It’s working pretty well," said Pavelec. "He’s the Boss. It’s the same mask, actually. But six games, six wins... that’s pretty good."
SURVIVING THE TSUNAMI
The Jets were outshot 20-5 in the first period, twice having to kill off Canadiens power plays. But Pavelec was a brick wall in the blue paint, turning aside one Habs chance after another.
Of note, the shots against were the most in a home period since March 22 a year ago against Carolina and went against the defence-first philosophy the team has been preaching since last fall.
Pavelec’s best stop, as part of an impressive collection, might have been a sprawling glove save that robbed Brendan Gallagher of a sure goal just 35 seconds after Mark Scheifele had given the Jets a 2-0 lead.
"It felt like we were behind it for the entire (first) period, and our goaltender was the best player on the ice for both teams," said Jets coach Paul Maurice.
"And we needed him to be to survive it. We got better incrementally as the game went on but never turned a switch where you felt like you were in control of the game. Our goaltender was our best player straight through."
BIG MAN, BIG IMPRINT
Dustin Byfuglien returned to the Jets lineup for the first time March 4 and a stretch of nine games over that span. He made a size-large impact almost immediately, hammering home a point blast for the game’s opening goal that rocketed right through Dustin Tokarski, who was starting in the Habs net for the all-planetary Carey Price. As one fan put it on Twitter, Byfuglien’s shot was so hard it likely had Tokarski’s DNA on it when the referee fished it out of the Montreal goal.
All told, Byfuglien — paired primarily with Adam Pardy — played 18 minutes and 29 seconds and his return helped ease some of the workload for the Jets blue-liners. Only Tyler Myers, at 23:11 was over 20 minutes in ice time for the Jets.
WHAT IT MEANS
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The Los Angeles Kings won, again, edging the New York Islanders 3-2 on Long Island to extend their win streak to three games and leapfrogging past the Calgary Flames into third place in the Pacific Division.
That means the Jets now hold a three-point lead over the Flames for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, and are just one back of the Minnesota Wild.
The Jets are also now 12-2-2 in their last 16 games at the MTS Centre dating back to Jan. 13.
"At this point of the year I don’t think it matters who you are beating," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "It’s just a matter of picking up as many points as you can down the stretch and getting into the post-season."
CANADIENS (46-20-8) at JETS (38-24-12)
WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m., MTS Centre
FYI: The Canadiens were the first NHL team to reach 100 points this season when the fell 3-2 in OT at Nashville on Tuesday.
The Habs are 30-3-3 when scoring first.
Winnipeg has beaten Montreal just once at MTS Centre since their return, a 4-0 blanking on Dec. 22, 2011.
The Jets are 11-2-2 at home since Jan. 13.
Drew Stafford is riding a seven-game points screak (4G, 5A), a career high
Ondrej Pavelec is 5-0 in his last five starts with a .967 save percentage and .980 GAA.