WINNIPEG – Ondrej Pavelec knew he hadn’t been playing his best for the Winnipeg Jets to start the season.
The goaltender made up for it Monday, stopping 28 shots as the reborn Jets defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 for their first regular-season victory.
“I know, and everybody knows, I didn’t play well our first games so I was trying to help the team to get the win and keep them in the game,” Pavelec said.
Pavelec had two of Winnipeg’s three losses this season, but he looked sharper Monday against the Penguins, who were missing top forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“It was a big game for us tonight against a great team,” Pavelec said.
“They missed two of their best guys, but they still were a danger and they have a lot of guys who can score the goals. I’m happy we showed tonight we can beat those teams. That’s very important, but now we go on the road. It’s only one game so don’t be too excited.”
Heading into the game, Winnipeg (1-3-0) was one of three winless NHL teams. The other two, the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets, were idle Monday.
Pavelec got a bit of breathing room early in the game when teammate Kyle Wellwood scored eight seconds after the opening faceoff in front of a roaring capacity crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre.
“That was exciting,” said Wellwood, adding it was the quickest goal he’s scored at any level of his career.
“Certainly, to get a break like that early in the game and being able to capitalize is one that you’re really going to enjoy.”
Wellwood’s goal tied former Thrasher Ron Petrovicky for the franchise’s fastest goal.
Tanner Glass had Winnipeg’s other goal, while Alex Burmistrov picked up two assists.
Zbynek Michalek had the only goal for Pittsburgh, which got 32 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury.
Pittsburgh has lost two in a row and dropped to 3-2-2.
“It was about being ready to start this game,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said.
“(The Jets) brought exactly what we thought they would bring. It was an emotional building and they had a fast quick start for them.
“We knew they wanted to come out and play that way and they certainly did and got the better of us.”
The Penguins continue their busy schedule with a game Tuesday in Minnesota against the Wild. Pittsburgh has 13 games in 24 days to start the season.
Winnipeg faces the Leafs in Toronto Wednesday and then heads to Ottawa for a Thursday game the Senators.
Winnipeg went up 2-0 with just over a minute left in the first period when Burmistrov stole the puck from defenceman Kris Letang along the boards.
Burmistrov sent the puck over to Glass in the high slot and he fired it through the legs of a screened Fleury.
Pittsburgh finally got one past Pavelec with 1:38 left in the second period when Michalek scored from just inside the blue-line.
Letang assisted on the goal, giving him seven points this season, including one goal. Prior to the game, Letang was tied with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for most points by a defenceman.
Pittsburgh was without forwards Malkin (knee) and Tyler Kennedy (concussion-like symptoms). Crosby (concussion) stayed home as he continues his recovery.
Winnipeg was missing winger Evander Kane with a lower-body injury. Defenceman Ron Hainsey left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return.