DENVER, Colorado – For the first time since 1996, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are returning to the city of Winnipeg!
Ondrej Pavelec posted his third consecutive shutout in a 1-0 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche, but with a loss by the Los Angeles Kings soon after, the Jets clinched with one game to play in the regular-season.
With the shootout loss, the Jets fall to 42-26-13 for 97 points and due to a win by the Minnesota Wild earlier tonight, the Jets will finish the regular-season as the second of two wild cards. The Jets will play either the Anaheim Ducks or St. Louis Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin next week.
Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene scored the only goals in the shootout.
The Jets persevered all season, rising to the challenge – and then some – when the moment demanded it. Through thick and thin, they became more than a team, galvanizing through adversity, the happier times and everything in between.
These Winnipeg Jets are something to watch.
Act 2 begins in less than a week.
“We lost those two games last week and it was so painful. The thought that that group could work as hard as they did and overcome as much as they did and the idea that you wouldn’t get the payoff for it seemed wrong,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “I’m happy for (the players). They earned it and did all the right things.”
“What a feeling,” Blake Wheeler said. “It would probably have been a bit better if we’d taken care of it on our own terms, but we couldn’t get one by him tonight. The way we’ve playing lately, the wins we’ve strung together and the way we’ve been pushing, we were due to get some help. … I can’t tell you the amount of work that guys have put in that have been here since Day 1. We have a group of guys that have withstood the ups and downs. There have been both.”
The teams were tied 0-0 after 40 minutes of play with the Jets leading the shot count 20-11. The visitors had the better of the limited opportunities, but were unable to solve Reto Berra. Bryan Little had a glorious chance late in the second period after a beautiful set up by Andrew Ladd, but Berra came up with a terrific save, challenging the point-blank shot before swallowing it up. Then, with less than a minute to play in the game, Wheeler rushed end-to-end and nearly found a sliver between the pad and the goalpost, but the puck stayed out.
The Jets outshot the Avs 41-21.
Pavelec was equally strong at the other end, making a number of game-savers down the stretch to give his team a chance.
“He got us here,” Maurice said of Pavelec. “The five wins he put together in a row after that St. Louis game were on him. We played pretty darn well in Minnesota and St. Louis but without exceptional goaltending, you don’t beat those teams. Good for him.”
Added Pavelec, who was checking the score in the Calgary/Los Angeles game between periods: “Tonight you have to give the guys credit. They didn’t have much energy, but I think we controlled the game. … It’s a great feeling. I’ve battled my whole career for this opportunity to play in the playoffs.”
LATE HITS: Mathieu Perreault left the game early in the second period favouring his left leg. Perreault, who recently returned from a lower-body injury, needed help getting off the ice before returning a short while later, only to leave again late in the middle frame.