OTTAWA – After losing their last three on the road, the Winnipeg Jets found success in Ottawa Saturday afternoon, courtesy of Al Montoya.
Winnipeg's backup goaltender was the catalyst behind a 1-0 Jets victory over the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Montoya earned his second win of the season, making 33 saves for his third career shutout.
Having spent much of the season on the Jets' bench, Montoya was able to remain loose while waiting for his next chance to get the starting nod.
"It's about relaxing," Montoya said. "Every single day, I know what I'm capable of doing, and it's about going out there and having fun – as clichéd as that sounds – and just letting that puck come to you."
Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the lone goal for Winnipeg (5-5-1) to hand the Senators (6-4-2) their first regulation loss at home this season.
It was a battle of the backup goaltenders for this Hockey Day in Canada matinee. Ben Bishop got his second start of the season and turned away 36 shots. The play of Bishop kept Ottawa in the game, but the team couldn't find the offense they desperately needed.
"That was probably one of the longer stints of my career [without a start], but that's part of the role [of being a backup]," Bishop said. "[Craig Anderson] is doing his part, so I just want to get in there and give the team a chance to win. I felt I did that tonight."
Ottawa nearly took the lead halfway through the first period when Stephane Da Costa charged up the ice on a breakaway. He tried to go stick side on Montoya, but the Jets goaltender stymied the 23-year-old center with a blocker save.
An Erik Karlsson pass that deflected off Da Costa's skate nearly played into the Jets' hands midway through the second. The puck was picked off by Kyle Wellwood, whose prime scoring chance was blocked by a sprawling Marc Methot.
After failing to capitalize on two power play attempts through the game's first two periods, one of Ottawa's best scoring opportunities came late in the middle frame. As the period wound down, Evander Kane turned the puck over in the Jets' zone to Daniel Alfredsson, whose point-blank shot was stopped by Montoya.
While Ottawa took 12 shots in the second, they allowed 16 by Winnipeg, a number of which were facilitated by Senators giveaways that could have proven costly. One neutral-zone turnover by Mike Lundin, who was playing in just his second game of the season, led to a two-on-one break for the Jets. With Andrew Ladd on his wing, Bryan Little fired a wrist shot, but Bishop continued to stand tall and made the glove save.
Kane almost redeemed himself in the second for his giveaway earlier in the match when he fired a shot from the top of the left circle. Fortunately for Bishop and the Senators, the puck rang off the post with 1:04 left in the period.
The game remained scoreless until the third period, with the game's lone goal coming courtesy of a giveaway by Karlsson. The defenseman's clearing attempt was intercepted by Wellwood, who fired the puck from the half-board. His shot was redirected by Ponikarovsky past Bishop, giving Winnipeg the lead 5:57 into the period.
Montoya held the fort from that point on and the Jets killed off Tobias Enstrom's hooking penalty midway through the period to preserve the Winnipeg victory.
Ottawa's offense has been notably inconsistent since the loss of Jason Spezza on Jan. 27. Spezza, who required back surgery to repair a herniated disc, ranked fourth in League scoring last season. Ottawa has now scored seven goals in their last five games and have been shut out twice in that stretch. The Senators' captain and all-time leading scorer refused to use the absence of their top center as an excuse for the team's offensive woes.
"It is what it is," Alfredsson said. "I think we've shown throughout last year and this year we can get goals. We weren't expected to score a lot of goals last season and we found a way.
"The way [Winnipeg] came out, they got us early with a lot of pressure, and we were a little jumpy with our sticks. We thought our goalie gave us a chance to win the game. We couldn't just get that goal we needed. We need to try harder."