By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Ondrej Pavelec made 41 saves, earning him his first shutout of the season, and Brian Little scored two goals, including the game-winner, as the Winnipeg Jets were all systems go on Friday night at the MTS Centre.
Pavelec, who last recorded a shutout on March 1, 2012 (71 games ago), was nothing less than stellar between the pipes for the Jets. After putting in extra work this week at practice and playing second fiddle for two games to Al Montoya, the Czech netminder reassured the Jets and their fans that he is the clear cut number one in Winnipeg.
“Of course, I wanted to show them that I am able to win the game and that I am able to play,” said Pavelec. “I took some days off and tried to get myself ready for the next one. I am happy.”
Pavelec had one thing on his mind going into Friday night’s game: Win.
“I didn’t play a few days so I felt a bit nervous,” said Pavelec. “I just want to help the guys get the win, that is my goal today, so I am happy that we get the win. For me, I was just trying to stay focused all game and not get pulled.”
Pavelec played down the shutout — his first in over a year — saying that the win and the two points is all that matters.
“(It’s) nothing, to be honest,” Pavelec said. “For me, it doesn’t matter if we win 5-2 or 5-1, it is nice to have a shut out for sure but tomorrow morning it is going to be about two points. You are going to look at the standings and have two more points; that is what I will focus on.
“To have a shutout is a little bonus for me.”
Pavelec got some much-needed offence in front of him on Friday night. Two goals by Bryan Little extended his team lead of 10 and his exceptional play to this point in the season.
“Last year, it seemed like everything I shot wasn’t going in for me,” said Little. “I was kind of more of a disher last year, trying to find my line-mates because they were the ones with the hot sticks.
“Right now, it just feels like everything that I put on net is going in. I know it is not going to last forever but I will enjoy it right now.”
On the heels of the win Jets’ head coach Claude Noel was happy get some relief from the “heartache” they have been enduring for the better part of this season.
“I thought we played a good first period, I thought we were fortunate to score four goals,” said Noel. “I thought that our second period wasn’t very good, we were lucky to get out of there 4-0. I thought we got some good games from people, I thought our goalie was very good; there were others that were very good. On a night like tonight, we will take a 5-0 game.
“It wasn’t necessarily a clinic, but we will take the game. We have had enough heartache for a while, we will take one of these.”
The Jets will practice Saturday as they prepare for a stern test against the 10-2-4 San Jose Sharks on Sunday night back here at the MTS Centre.