By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Ondrej Pavelec may not have had his best performances as a goaltender at the Sochi Olympics, but on Thursday night he was able to return to the Jets fold and register a solid, 34-save effort — one that gave his team a 3-2 victory and two vital points in the standings.
“That huge save in overtime where he is sprawling and they have an empty net and he got his glove on it, that was a huge one,” said Andrew Ladd. “And shootouts, those are tough for goalies. He made some huge saves and got us that extra point.
“That one was all him tonight.”
Pavelec was given the pilot’s helmet, chosen by the players and given to who they deemed was the best player on the ice. A fine choice if you ask Jets head coach Paul Maurice, who suggested that his No. 1 had to compete all night in the crease.
“Goalies never get thought of as competing; that was what that game was all about probably for both guys,” said Maurice. “I thought Ondrej, to win that game — and in the end he does because of the shootout saves and the saves in overtime — he really had to compete hard in that net.
“It wasn’t a clean game for anybody.”
Sloppy is an adjective that would be easy to attribute to the Jets first game back after a three-week layoff. For Maurice, he was just happy to walk away with a win.
“Two points,” said Maurice when asked what he would take out of that game.
“When you look around the league, yesterday and today, some strange scores and some strange games. That one was kind of a slugfest for the puck all night.”
“I think you can expect that with such a long layoff,” added Blake Wheeler, who notched his 23rd goal of the season in the win. “We got areas we can be better in and areas we can improve in and that is a positive — to maybe not play your A-game but still get two points.
“It’s not going to be the last time we have to do that this year.”
The Jets, after tonight’s win, sit five points back of the Minnesota Wild (Minnesota was winning 3-0 in the third) for the fourth spot in the Central Division. The victory helped them move up in the wild card race, now just sitting one point back of Phoenix, who have two games in hand.