Jets showing some finish
Pavelec backstops Jets to win over Coyotes
KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
|Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec makes a save against theCoyotes at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Dec. 1, 2011. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters)
WINNIPEG - It’s one of the most important lessons a young team like the Winnipeg Jets is going to have to learn as they work to move the franchise forward.
After struggling on numerous occasions to close out games this season, the Jets had another prime opportunity to get the job done again on Thursday night.
And this one had some special meaning for the patrons watching inside the MTS Centre (and out, for that matter) as it was the former Jets facing the 2.0 version of the club.
Those hometown fans —some of whom made the voyage to Arizona for the first meeting back on Oct. 15 — booed the Phoenix Coyotes nearly every time they touched the puck but thanks to some excellent netminding and a timely goal, the Jets found a way to get the job done, skating off with a 1-0 triumph before 15,004 at the MTS Centre.
“Something we’ve been trying to work on lately is finishing teams off and having good third periods — we did exactly that,” said Jets centre Bryan Little, who scored the lone goal of this contest by stuffing in a rebound after Evander Kane rattled his shot off the post on a 2-on-1 rush. “It’s a good feeling. We haven’t been able to do that a lot this year. It was a good finish.”
Discipline didn’t come back and hurt the Jets on this night either, as they took only two minor penalties and none in the third period.
“It’s another big thing we’ve been struggling with is staying out of the penalty box, but we did a great job,” said Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who played just over 25 minutes and was on the ice protecting the one-goal lead in the final minute. “They’re a team that sits back and waits for you to make mistakes and we didn’t make too many.”
Rather than take chances or turn pucks over, the Jets made a concerted effort to do the little things required to preserve the lead.
“To a man, when the puck was at the blue-line it was either getting out of our zone or in their zone,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. “We’ve faced it a few times when we’re coming from behind. It makes your life so much tougher when you have to carry the puck out of your corner and go through five guys to get a good opportunity. We figured we’d try that out and it worked well for us.
“We knew everyone had this game marked on their calendar and we wanted to have a good performance. For our team, 1-0 is about as good as we can play.”
Once again, the man at the middle of it all was goalie Ondrej Pavelec — who was vocal in his displeasure for the way he played in Tuesday’s 6-4 defeat to the Ottawa Senators.
Pavelec wasn’t overworked in this one, but did make several big saves during the second period when the Jets were outshot 16-9 and found themselves back on their heels for a few long shifts in their own zone.
“It was great to have a chance to be back in the net and bounce back,” said Pavelec, who made 33 saves and posted his second shutout of the season in what was his 22nd appearance in 25 games. “Without those guys, I couldn’t do it.”
That may be true, but without the steady goaltending from Pavelec, the Jets couldn’t have gotten the job done either.