Kyle Wellwood scored at 3:14 of overtime as the Winnipeg Jets made it two in a row on the road by beating the Lightning 2-1 on Thursday night. Wellwood popped the puck into an open net past Mathieu Garon after a left-circle pass by Blake Wheeler, who had scored Winnipeg's first goal. Wellwood's 10th goal of the season ended a seven-game losing streak for the Jets' franchise at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, including the team's time as the Atlanta Thrashers before relocating last summer.
"(Dustin) Byfuglien made a nice play getting the puck to Wheeler and (Vincent) Lecavalier went for the puck and missed," Wellwood said. "Me and Wheels (Blake Wheeler) had a lot of time and he made a great pass."
Wheeler's goal, which opened the scoring with 15.2 seconds remaining in the second period, broke a Winnipeg/Atlanta scoreless streak in Tampa that stretched 103:22 and dated back to Jan. 23, 2011.
But the game never would have gotten to overtime without the heroics of Pavelec, who made 30 saves and left Lightning coach Guy Boucher shaking his head.
"Their goaltender stoned us, basically," Boucher said. "We had tons of quality, quality scoring chances and we couldn't bury them."
The only Tampa Bay shooter to beat Pavelec was defenseman Victor Hedman, who tied the game at 10:34 of the third period to force overtime. Hedman scored his third goal of the season and first in 26 games since Oct. 22 when he took a slick pass by Martin St. Louis and beat Ondrej Pavelec to the short side from the lower left circle.
"We deserved better," said St. Louis, who extended his points streak to eight games. "There's going to be games that we probably don't play as good and get two points. So you can't get too down."
Mathieu Garon was also solid in net for Tampa Bay, stopping 22 of 24 shots.
The Lightning's power-play struggles continued -- the Bolts were 0-for-2 and didn't even managed a shot on goal after Winnipeg's Andrew Ladd was called for slashing with 4:10 left in regulation, dropping them to 3-for-35 in their last 12 games.
Boucher said Winnipeg deserved credit for its penalty-killing.
"They blocked two shots on that power play," Boucher said. "That's also part of it. They're fighting for their lives, too. That's the NHL now; you have three or four goalies now on the penalty kill."
The Jets didn't need three or four goalies on this night -- they had Pavelec, who made acrobatic save after save, and ultimately was the difference.
"I'm frustrated, but if we don't deserve it then we don't deserve it," Boucher said after his team's five-game winning streak ended. "The coaches were unanimous in thinking we deserved this game, but it didn't turn our way. It's disappointing, but we picked up another point and we have to move forward."
Moving forward for the Lightning (22-23-5) means a Saturday night home date with the Florida Panthers, another team that is looming above them in the playoff race. They'll see the Panthers after the Jets (24-22-3) visit the BankAtlantic Center on Friday night as they continue on their six-game road swing, the longest of their season.
Getting Byfuglien back into their line-up after an absence of 16 games due to a knee injury provided a big lift for the Jets. Byfuglien played 25:36 and said he felt no ill effects from his efforts.
"I felt real good," Byfuglien said. "A lot better than I thought I would. It didn't take too long to get back in the mix of things. I thought we played smart and kept things real simple."
Simple, but efficient.
"Buff played maybe a few more minutes than we expected or would have liked," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said. "But the game went to overtime. He was a pretty effective player in the game."
1 - 0 WPG
Martin St. Louis