WINNIPEG – Zero.
Star centre Evgeni Malkin – a two-time winner of the NHL’s Art Ross Trophy – had exactly that many shots on goal Sunday in a 1-0 Winnipeg Jets win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
A big reason why was the play of Adam Lowry, who was recalled earlier in the day after a four-game, point-per-game stint with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
On a line with Andrew Ladd and Alexander Burmistrov, Lowry played 16 minutes and 52 seconds of near flawless defensive hockey, silencing the former 50-goal scorer and his two linemates, Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist.
Welcome back, 17.
“It felt good to be in the middle and moving my feet again,” Lowry said following Monday’s practice at MTS Centre. “I think when I went down it was a matter of getting my quickness back – not only with skating, but with my decision-making, moving the puck and making those quick reads.
“A player [and a line] like that, they’re going to create some space and get some chances, but I thought for the most part, as a unit we did a good job of limiting those and keeping them to
Lowry finished the night with one shot, three hits and two blocks, all the while starting less than 47 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone.
“We had a couple chances early in the first period and those came from turning the puck over in the neutral zone and getting stops on the cycle in the D zone,” Lowry said. “We know that’s how we’re going to have to create offence.”
Lowry also drew a high-sticking penalty on Malkin early in the third period. Overall, it was a solid, if not terrific night back in Jets colours.
Looking back the morning after, the captain had nothing but praise for the second-year pivot.
“He was moving and he had a good stick,” Ladd said. “He’s a big body, so in our end he’s tough to play against, especially when he starts leaning on you and getting into you a little bit. I thought
he played real well.”
As good as Lowry and the other 21 skaters were last night, the Jets needed a strong performance in goal to escape with the two points. Rookie goalie Connor Hellebuyck provided that, stopping 30
shots for his first NHL shutout.
Hellebuyck is six and three, with a 2.13 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in just nine starts this year.
“There are very few successful teams that aren’t looking for a pretty spectacular performance in net,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said, specifically mentioning a four-minute block midway through the second period that helped set the tone between the pipes. “He made a bunch [of great saves] in that block for the rest of the night, he made good saves. We needed that block and every team does.”
The Jets were victimized by the Herculean-like efforts of Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot last week, who stopped 44 in a 3-1 Oilers win.
That’s hockey for you. Goaltending can and usually does make all the difference, even when the team plays one of its most complete games of the season.
“There’s games that are won on that kind of goaltending performance – a big-shot performance – and it helps you build some confidence. Those are really important wins because it builds a belief that you can have one of those nights, that even if you’re off, your goalie can be the difference. Our goaltending has been good. When it’s been real good we’ve won games and we need it.”
Hellebuyck has started eight of the past 10 games.
LATE HITS: Dustin Byfuglien left practice early with what Maurice described as a “nagging” issue, but the defenceman is expected to be in the lineup tomorrow night.
“He’ll be fine for tomorrow,” the coach said.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com