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Unlikely heroes come through for Jets

Postma, Pavs play huge roles in a big win over Lightning

Jets forward Blake Wheeler celebrates his game-winning third-period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Winnipeg Jets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, March 14, 2015
Jets fans cheer their team to victory. (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec was sharp when he had to be. (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
The Jets celebrate Drew Stafford's third-period goal. (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Blake Wheeler skates around Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Anton Stralman. (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
The Jets celebrate Blake Wheeler's game-winning goal. (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Toby Enstrom,lost some blood after being boarded by Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov. (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
A melee ensued after Nikita Kucherov's cowardly hit on Tobias Enstrom. (Dirk Shadd / Tribune Media TNS)
The Jets Jiri Tlusty is impeded by Andrej Sustr of the Lightning. (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy makes one of his six saves in the first period. (Dirk Shadd / Tribune Media TNS)
Jets forward Blake Wheeler celebrates his game-winning third-period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning. - (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Jets fans cheer their team to victory. - (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec was sharp when he had to be. - (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
The Jets celebrate Drew Stafford's third-period goal. - (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Blake Wheeler skates around Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Anton Stralman. - (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
The Jets celebrate Blake Wheeler's game-winning goal. - (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Toby Enstrom,lost some blood after being boarded by Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov. - (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
A melee ensued after Nikita Kucherov's cowardly hit on Tobias Enstrom. - (Dirk Shadd / Tribune Media TNS)
The Jets Jiri Tlusty is impeded by Andrej Sustr of the Lightning. - (Mike Carlson / The Associated Press)
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy makes one of his six saves in the first period. - (Dirk Shadd / Tribune Media TNS)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/3/2015 (1849 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TAMPA — They are the most unlikely of heroes among the Winnipeg Jets, but Paul Postma and Ondrej Pavelec each took a big bite of their team’s win Saturday night.

Postma, fresh off a string of 27 games as a healthy scratch, played over 23 minutes on the blue-line while Pavelec shook off the worst goal he’s allowed this season (maybe ever) and stopped 15 of 16 shots in a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Jets Jiri Tlusty by Andrej Sustr of the Lightning.

MIKE CARLSON / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Jets Jiri Tlusty by Andrej Sustr of the Lightning.

The win gives the Jets 80 points, and depending on the out-of-town scoreboard, could elevate them back into a Western Conference wild-card playoff position.

The Jets played without regular defenders Tyler Myers, Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Chiarot as well as No. 1 centre Bryan Little and top winger Matthieu Perreault.

When Toby Enstrom was hit from behind and forced to leave the game for a stretch in the third period, and Jacob Trouba picked up 12 minutes of penalties on the same play, the Jets found themselves down to four defenceman and trailing 1-0.

He came in against Tampa and gave up (just) one and that gave us a chance to win the game.

A win seemed improbable at that point and the playoffs were beginning to look very unlikely.

But a power-play goal from Drew Stafford with Postma running the show on the point, then an unassisted marker from Blake Wheeler, and the Jets had put a much happier note on a week that had gone sour.

Pavelec gave up a last-minute goal Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues on a Barret Jackman shot from outside the blue-line that cost the Jets at least one point. Then the Jets looked average at best in a loss to the Florida Panthers, which also saw the team fall out of the playoff picture for the first time since early December. Gloom had moved in the neighbourhood and Doom was circling.

Jets coach Paul Maurice decided to give Pavelec another chance and his goalie responded with a strong effort, making timely saves and giving his team enough to win.

"This hasn’t been an easy week. Sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it. What happened in St. Louis... before the goal, I felt really good in that game. That thing (letting in Jackman’s shot) happened at a bad time," said Pavelec. "After that, I didn’t know if I was even going to get another chance to play. I was trying to put it behind me. But it was in my head, for sure. You can say whatever you want, but it’s there. So you just try to put it behind you. It wasn’t going away. Maybe now it has."

Pavelec stood in front of a number of reporters following the game in a busy Jets dressing room as players took off gear and equipment managers packed up bags and loaded trolleys. As teammates walked by they reached over to pat Pavelec on the back or caught his eye to give him a wink.

This wasn’t a small win for the goalie and the rest of the Jets knew it.

"Don’t underestimate the internal pressure on himself, because regardless of what people write or say about Ondrej, he’s part of our team, and that goal in St. Louis hurt him more than anybody else in that locker-room," said Maurice.

"He came in against Tampa and gave up (just) one and that gave us a chance to win the game."

Nikita Kucherov was both standout and goat for the Lightning on Saturday. First he scored his 26th of the season to give his team a 1-0 lead in the third period. Then he stapled Enstrom from behind to earn a five-minute major, which opened the door for the Jets’ win.

HEY HUTCH: Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos played minor hockey with Michael Hutchinson when the two were kids growing up in Toronto and said Saturday morning he’s thrilled for his old pal.

"I play close attention. Hutch is a good friend of mine. Our families know each other well, and I grew up playing with and against him for pretty much my whole minor hockey career," said Stamkos. "To see him having this much success isn’t a surprise to me. He was a dominant goalie growing up. I know it took him probably a little longer than he would have wanted to get where he is today, but he has that work ethic and it’s definitely not a surprise for me. I’m definitely happy for him.

THE BLUEPRINT: The Jets held one of the league’s highest-scoring teams to just 16 shots and Maurice said it was exactly the way his team needs to be playing right now.

"It was almost a carbon copy of our game in Nashville, with a shorter bench, not in terms of players, because everybody played tonight and everybody had a piece of that," said Maurice. "But with some guys banged up out there and guys that played through some stuff that happened tonight. We executed what we tried to do, and when we couldn’t get it done, we fought hard to get pucks back, to block shots. When we couldn’t get that done, our goaltender stopped the puck."

Trouba time: Trouba received a two-minute minor and a 10-minute misconduct late in the third period after dropping his gloves and attacked Kucherov after Kucherov’s hit on Enstrom.

Despite the fact it left the Jets with just four defencemen while Enstrom was getting stitched up, Maurice said he had no problem with Trouba’s reaction.

"No, he gets to do that. I don’t think any (player) sees that and thinks through the next 30 seconds to two minutes — it’s just on," said Maurice. "It’s a tough pill to swallow. Toby goes down and (Trouba) gets 12 minutes worth of penalties and we’re on a five-minute power play, but Drew Stafford got on the point. Sometimes you need a little help from upstairs. That’s why Drew was where he was."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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Live Blog Live Winnipeg Jets game coverage
 
History

Updated on Saturday, March 14, 2015 at 7:50 PM CDT: headline updated after second period

8:52 PM: Score updated after third period

10:27 PM: updated with AP gamer

10:46 PM: Updated with Gary Lawless gamer

11:25 PM: slide show added

11:53 PM: game breakers added

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