Connor Hellebuyck didn't need to deliver a dazzling run of acrobatics Thursday night to post the 150th victory of his NHL career.
The usual standard fare of sound goaltending the Winnipeg Jets have come to expect from him was more than sufficient.
Hellebuyck stopped 28 shots by the Senators, an essential element of Winnipeg's 4-1 victory in Ottawa.
"He's quite the luxury to have back there. We certainly feel he's the top goaltender in the league. Obviously, he showed that last year," said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, during his post-game Zoom address. "You hate to take him for granted. Some of the saves he makes you almost expect him to make at this point.
"A great performance by him... it was nice to see him in top form."
Hellebuyck is just two wins back of franchise leader Ondrej Pavelec (152), the main man between the pipes during the team’s first five seasons in Winnipeg.
That is, until Hellebuyck, the heir apparent, took control of the crease during the 2016-17 campaign.
The NHL’s all-time wins leader, hall-of-famer Martin Brodeur (691), won’t be looking over his shoulder any time soon... or ever... for anyone. But it’s another moment to cherish for Hellebuyck, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goalie.
"Yeah, it’s another one of those little proud moments. I thought about it after the game," he admitted. "I kind of checked on where I was in games and I didn’t realize I was close to a milestone for wins. It says a lot about the guys in front of me — the team as a whole — how long we’ve been together, building together and getting a lot of wins along the way."
Hellebuyck wasn’t exactly overworked but managed to register at least one stop of the brilliant variety in every period at Canadian Tire Centre.
Showing lateral quickness, he slid post to post to deny Evgenii Dadonov with just seconds left in the first frame to preserve a 1-0 lead.
In the middle frame, Cedric Paquette found himself unattended in the slot but was denied by Hellebuyck about four minutes in. The Jets stormed right back and manufactured a critical goal by Mark Scheifele to inflate their lead to 2-0.
The Michigan product made his finest save just a minute into the final frame, squeezing his pads together to thwart Connor Brown on a short-handed breakaway.
"Absolutely, that’s when I was called upon. I did my job," he said. "Everyone did their jobs, everyone was fantastic. It was a really fun game to watch and be a part of."
The only blemish? A goal by Chris Tierney, who charged to the net and redirected a Nikita Zaitsev shot near the right post with under three minutes left to crush the shutout bid.
Even a nothing goal in dead time sticks in his craw.
"It makes me really angry because I played almost a perfect game and then a guy shoots one wide and that’s what happens? I don’t really care how it goes in, I just don’t want it to go in," Hellebuyck said. "For me, I liked the team game and we got a win, so I’ll be able to shake it off. It would have been nice to see a goose egg up there, though."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).