WINNIPEG – ‘Mr.’ Pavelec does it again.
“I think we have to call him ‘Mr.’ now,” Head Coach Paul Maurice quipped.
‘Ondrej the Giant,’ ‘Pavy,’ or the myriad others all fit. What it boils down to is this: The Pavelectricity was certainly strong tonight inside MTS Centre.
“He was fantastic,” Maurice said of his goaltender’s 28-save shutout over the Washington Capitals.
Mark Scheifele had a goal and an assist and Drew Stafford recorded a pair of helpers in a 3-0 win. Mark Stuart and Adam Lowry (EN) tallied the others as the Jets extended their winning streak to four. With the victory, the Jets improve to 37-23-12 for 86 points on the year. With a little help earlier on the day on the out-of-town scoreboard, the Jets are now four points clear of the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for the second of two playoff spots in the Western Conference Wild Card.
“We did everything to win the game,” Pavelec, who now has a .964 save percentage in his last six appearances, said with a smile. “I’m happy. It’s great. I think we played a hell of a game”
“We have the belief in here,” Stafford said. “We’re not playing for anyone else except the fans and ourselves in this room. We believe what kind of team we have and that we can compete with anyone out there. We’re going to try and take this momentum from the home stand with us out on the road.”
The Jets now head out on a two-game trip beginning Monday in Edmonton.
The Jets opened the scoring with a beautiful goal at 11:46 after surviving an early onslaught. Sneaking in the back door, Stuart capitalized on a deflected pass in front, hammering home his second of the year with not a Cap in sight. Scheifele and Stafford recorded the assists – the latter extending his point streak to five games (3G, 4A) after a gorgeous move at the line, shimmying past the defender before spinning and dishing off on his forehand.
“We’re happy for Stuey. You should have heard him in the pile celebrating,” Stafford said. “That’s huge for us to get that offence from our back end – especially from a guy like Stu, who works his butt off and puts his body on the line every night. For him to get rewarded for a goal, I’m sure he’s pretty happy.”
Added Maurice: “He goes out and plays as hard as he possibly can every shift. He does the same thing at every morning skate, every practice. That’s leadership. Every once in a while you want one of those guys to get one of those really important goals to feel good. … If he hadn’t scored, he wouldn’t necessarily feel any better about his game. He was great out there tonight – plus the goal.”
Shots on goal favoured the Capitals 9-6 after one period of play. Not included in that tally – an early shot by Troy Brouwer that rang off the crossbar before the popcorn cooled.
Washington also held a 19-13 advantage in shot attempts and a 9-8 lead in total scoring chances, but the tide turned in the middle frame and the Jets took over.
The Jets extended to a 2-0 lead at 10:48 of the second period. Capping a dominant shift, cycling the puck for nearly a minute down deep in Caps territory, Wheeler delivered a pinpoint pass right onto the tape of Scheifele, who rifled a shot bar-down, netting his 13th of the season and his second in three games.
Stafford picked up the other assist after yet another impressive display along the wall.
“He’s so strong on the puck down low,” Wheeler said of his linemate. “He does a lot of little things in the zone that creates a lot of time and space.”
The Capitals had a glorious opportunity to make a game of it early in the third, but Pavelec shut the door on Joel Ward’s shorthanded breakaway. Not to be outdone, Braden Holtby came up with an outstanding glove save on a Jets power-play chance moments later, robbing No. 26 of the would-be insurance marker.
“We wanted to limit their top guys’ time and space,” Wheeler said. “If you let Ovechkin and Backstrom skate around too much, they’re going to make you pay. I think we did well to take them out of the game right away. They still got their looks – they’re good players, so they’re going to get them – but, ultimately, we did a good job.”
The Capitals poured it on at the end, but Pavelec was there. Moments after a Brooks Orpik slap shot struck iron, Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson and Mike Green orchestrated a beautiful three-way passing play, but Pavelec made up with a massive save, stretching across to smother the ultimate one-time attempt.
Lowry sealed it at 18:38 with a 158-foot empty-netter.
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com