If you get great goaltending, you only need one goal. That’s certainly what the Winnipeg Jets found out on Saturday afternoon.
Veteran Jets backup, Al Montoya, gave the visitors one of the best starts of the season, stopping 33 Ottawa Senators shots, to give the Jets a 1-0 upset win over the home side.
“It’s about relaxing,” Montoya told The Canadian Press. “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.”
It was game that didn’t produce a lot of action, but at 5:57 of the third period, Winnipeg’s Alexei Ponikarovsky planted himself in front of Ottawa goaltender Ben Bishop and produced to tip in a shot by Kyle Wellwood. Thanks to Montoya, that’s all the Jets would need.
With the win, Winnipeg improved to 5-5-1 on the season while Ottawa suffered its first regulation loss at home and fell to 6-4-1.
Not only was it Hockey Day in Canada on Saturday, it was Backup Goalie Day in Ottawa, as Montoya got is third start of the season and Bishop got his second. Both goaltenders played well as Bishop made 36 saves and took a loss that was clearly the fault of an Ottawa attack that simply had nothing going for it.
“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 today.”
The Senators had a number of good scoring chances throughout the game, but Montoya was sensational. However, Winnipeg had a number of chances of its own and were it not for Bishop, this might have been a blowout. The Jets outshot the Senators 37-33, 16-12 in the second period when Winnipeg had a number of opportunities to blow the game wide open.
The Jets only eventually came when Ottawa’s best player, defenseman Erik Karlsson, gave away the puck in his own zone. Karlsson’s clearing attempt was stolen by Wellwood who whipped the shot at Bishop. Bishop never saw the puck as Ponikarovsky redirected it off the post and in.
Montoya was terrific from that point on and the Jets killed one a penalty to Toby Enstrom midway through the third and that was all Winnipeg needed. Without the injured Jason Spezza, the Senators had virtually no offensive skill at all. Although they are a great defensive club, they just have no offensive skill whatsoever.
Meanwhile, the Jets finally won a game with its two defensive stars missing from action. Both Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien missed another game for Winnipeg, although Byfuglien is expected back this week while Bogosian should play before the end of the month.
“I just was able to get a turnover and I knew guys were going to the net and I didn’t have a pass so I waited and I saw Poni going to the net and I just tried to shoot it at him and hoped he’d screen the goalie and it just went in,” Wellwood told reporters in Ottawa.
“That’s been the strategy over the last few games. We try to keep it close, play good defensively but try to funnel pucks to the net and hopefully have them go in. Tonight was the night it went in.”
The Jets will return home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at MTS Centre, 7 p.m. on TSN Jets TV.
Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien is expected to play.