ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Two games. Two nights.
Two big wins.
The Winnipeg Jets are another step closer to earning a berth in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Two games remain.
Showing some soft hands in tight, Chris Thorburn scored the lone goal of the evening while Ondrej Pavelec made 30 saves for his second consecutive shutout.
With the win, the Jets improve to 42-26-12 for 96 points on the year, three up on the Los Angeles Kings. The Jets can now clinch a playoff spot with a win or a regulation loss by the Kings.
“There’s no better way to [to start a road trip],” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “That’s as good as it gets. Good on the guys. … Our goaltender, again, was really good and everybody on the bench had a piece of the game. The game-winning goal came from the line that played the least but had the biggest impact.”
“We know what we can do it,” Pavelec said. “Hell of a battle in the third. With these two teams, it’s always war. We’re happy we got all four points so far – on the road, in their buildings.”
Shots on goal favoured the Blues 12-11 after a scoreless opening frame.
Starting on back-to-back nights for the first time since Feb. 2 and 3, Pavelec looked right at home after a 32-save shutout 24 hours earlier. His best effort of the period came near the 10-minute mark when he made a ridiculous save off Jaden Schwartz, who, after corralling a bouncing puck at the lip of the blue paint, fired toward the open net. Pavelec was there, (somehow) spoiling the chance with the backside of his blocker hand.
“I think it hit two or three guys and then I saw the rebound, so I tried to get there as fast as I could,” Pavelec said. “You need some luck to get a shutout.”
The Jets were not without their chances in the evenly played opening 20, but the red-hot Jake Allen was up to the task before the visitors found a crack in the armour early in the second period. Outmuscling Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk, Thorburn backhanded a shot five-hole for the opening tally at 2:31.
The Jets have now scored first a league-leading 49 times this season.
“It was a great play all around,” Thorburn said. “We were getting pucks on the net and I was fortunate to have it land on my stick. It’s nice to contribute and hopefully going forward we can get the same results.
“It’s rewarding. It takes some of the pressure off some of our big guys. They’re responsible for getting us to this point so it’s nice to give them some offence during this stretch. Everyone from top to bottom has that confidence.”
The Blues appeared to tie the game in the latter stages of the second, but Paul Stastny’s would-be equalizer was wiped out by a slashing penalty. Stastny turned a 2-on-2 into a 2-on-1 by eliminating the stick of the retreating defender, Tyler Myers, before depositing a backhand shot far side on Pavelec. The elated turned hostile as boos rained down on the officials for some time after the play.
TJ’s Oshie’s double minor for high-sticking Mark Stuart capped an emotional period, both on the ice and the stands.
Ho-hum. Just another night between two Central Division rivals. What a wonderful time of year.
Pavelec locked it down in the third period, posting 10 saves the rest of the way.
“He’s our best player right now, especially during this stretch we’ve been on,” Thorburn said of his goaltender. “He works his butt off day-in and day-out at practice. He’s in a groove. We need him,
he knows that and has answered the bell like he has so many times before.”
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com