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Pavelec shines as Jets edge Stars

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

– Ondrej Pavelec had a night to remember, recording 46 saves – many of them miraculous – in one of the most spectacular goaltending performances of the season as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 on Thursday night at American Airlines Center.

Michael Frolik and Evander Kane scored in the win.

With the victory, the Jets improve to 23-14-8 on the year, are nine points up on the Stars and now trail the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues by only four points for third in the Central Division.

The Jets continue to pace the Western Conference wild card race, leading the idle Vancouver Canucks by five points.

The Jets play the Blackhawks tomorrow night at United Center.

“(Pavelec) was beyond spectacular,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “I can’t remember a game where I saw a goalie have to face that number of A-plus chances. And if he did, he didn’t keep them at zero for 59 minutes. Good for him. He’s played a lot of really strong games for us this year. He was full value. Just an incredible game by our goaltender.

“I will answer every question you have next week about what I think about this game. Anything that I say would distract people from our goaltender’s performance and I can’t in good conscience let that happen.

“It was an incredible night and he’s the reason we got two points.”

The Jets got off to a quick start, scoring early before the Stars rallied back on the shot clock.

Delivering a beautiful pass into the slot from down below the goal line, the red-hot Mathieu Perreault (who else?) engineered the icebreaker at 3:53. Frolik was the recipient of No. 85’s handy work, splitting the D and shuttling a shot through the wickets of Anders Lindback for the opening score of a one-sided contest early on.

With the assist, Perreault extended his point streak to five games, registering six goals and nine points in a span dating back to Jan. 8 at Arizona.

“It was a nice goal but it was pretty much all we had all night. We couldn’t generate much,” Perreault said.

Shots on goal favoured the Jets 11-9 after one period of play. Pavelec, who was instrumental in killing off a pair of early penalties, had an exceptional showing between the pipes.

Coming into the night ninth in the National Hockey League at 82.8 percent, the penalty kill continued to hum along.

Pavelec continued the magic early in the middle frame, stoning veteran pivot Shawn Horcoff on a partial break before making a gargantuan sprawling stop off Jamie Benn, who, despite a valiant effort in tight, was unable to shove it across the goal line.

In utter disbelief, Benn looked to the heavens once again late in the period after connecting with a beautiful feed across the goalmouth.

Pavelec was there. Again.

The Jets were outshot 22-6 in the middle 20, but the game remained in a 1-0 score through two.

With Blake Wheeler off serving a double minor for high-sticking, Pavelec was at it again, stunning the league’s leading goal-scorer, Tyler Seguin, with a fabulous, around-the-world glove save.

“It was one of my better games,” Pavelec said. “It was important for me to battle. Even when I didn’t see it, the puck hit me.

 “We needed it. It was a big game for us. It didn’t go the way we wanted, but we found a way to win.”

Just moments later, Kane added the insurance with a shorthanded goal, cunningly corralling a bouncing puck before sliding it past Lindback on a partial break.

“I was trying to make sure I was on the breakaway and it hopped on me,” Kane said. “The guy tried to kill me coming across the middle, but I got a bit of a touch on it, it ricocheted off a skate and went in.

“It’s nice to get some offence going here.”

One after the next – again and again – Pavelec continued to shine, preserving the victory in the most emphatic way possible.

He was 1:16 from a shutout before Stars defenceman Trevor Daley rifled a slap shot top shelf.

“I’ll take the win,” Pavelec laughed. “Of course it would have been nice to get these shutout, I won’t lie, but hockey is 60 minutes. We got the win and that’s what’s most important.’”

— Ryan Dittrick,
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