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This article was published 15/1/2015 (1764 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
DALLAS — There’s a reason Paul Maurice is the coach of the Winnipeg Jets and the rest of us are not. The man with 501 wins as an NHL bench boss knows more about hockey than the rest of us, for starters, and how to handle his team and his roster.
With seemingly all of Winnipeg screaming for Michael Hutchinson to get the start in goal Thursday night, there was Maurice sticking to his plan and going with Ondrej Pavelec.
The result? Pavelec was brilliant and put in his finest performance of the season as he repeatedly denied the Dallas Stars in a 2-1 win for the Jets.
"(The) Jets needed the win," said Pavelec. "I needed the win. I felt good about my game but I needed to get a win. This was a big two points for us. We didn’t play the way we wanted but we got the points."
Winnipeg was outshot 47-22 and Pavelec was called upon a number of times to make dramatic and unlikely stops. The Jets didn’t deserve the win and slipped out of Texas with two points over their Central Division rivals.
Winnipeg is now 23-14-8 on the season with 54 points to occupy the top wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Stars are now nine back of the Jets and will soon have to go on a hellacious run to catch up with Winnipeg.
The Jets left Dallas for Chicago immediately after the game and will meet the Blackhawks tonight with Hutchinson drawing the net assignment.
It’s been a season of change for Pavelec as he’s seen his understudy rise up and take work from him. No longer the Jets’ clear-cut No. 1 but part of a two-goalie tandem, Pavelec has responded with a serene demeanour and consistent work ethic.
"It was one of my better games," Pavelec said. "But some of the saves, the guy has an empty net and he hits my skate.Hey, sometimes it goes that way for you. Now we go to Chicago and see what we can do there."
The Jets opened the scoring early in the first period as Michael Frolik whipped home his ninth of the season on a deft feed from linemate Mathieu Perreault.
Winnipeg went silent in the second period as the Stars outshot them 22-6. The third period started in shaky fashion as well as Blake Wheeler picked up a double-minor for high-sticking.
But all Pavelec’s good work was finally rewarded as he watched Evander Kane pot a short-handed marker to give the Jets much needed breathing room.
Stars defenceman Trevor Daley spoiled Pavelec’s pursuit of perfection, scoring with just over one minute left in regulation and the Dallas goalie out for an extra attacker.
"Anything that comes out of my mouth that doesn’t begin and end with Ondrej Pavelec would be doing him a disservice," said Jets coach Paul Maurice. "He was beyond spectacular. I can’t remember a night when a goalie had to face that many Grade A changes and kept the other team scoreless for 59 minutes. This was a very special effort."
The slick winger known as Frenchy to his teammates is making a case for himself as the top unrestricted free agent signing of 2014. Perreault leads his UFA class with 15 goals and now has 29 points after picking up an assist on Frolik’s goal in the first period.
Perreault was signed for three years at $3 million per season and has been great value for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. Nashville signed Mike Ribeiro for one year and $1 million and he has 38 points this season including nine goals and an argument can be made for both as the best UFA signing of 2014.
Ribeiro is cheaper and has more points, but Perreault has scored more goals and is tied to the Jets for three full seasons.
Jets second-year defenceman Jacob Trouba skated with his teammates on Thursday morning in a regular jersey and not the powder-blue non-contact variety. Trouba is looking to return from an upper body injury and Maurice said he’s on target to be back right around the all-star break.
Upon Trouba’s return the Jets will have some decisions to make on the blue-line and expect Jay Harrison to fall out of the lineup with Trouba taking his place alongside Mark Stuart. Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Chiarot will continue to work together as will Toby Enstrom and Zach Bogosian.
Harrison will join Paul Postma and Adam Pardy in the press box but Cheveldayoff will have to clear this logjam at some point.
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Updated on Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 5:25 PM CST: Fixes typo in headline
8:51 PM: Updates headline with score; adds slideshow.
9:46 PM: Updates score, changes story photo.
10:09 PM: Updates with final score.
10:30 PM: Replaces pre-game story with AP post-gamer.
11:54 PM: Replaces AP post-gamer with Gary Lawless post-game story.
11:57 PM: Writethru