WINNIPEG – Winnipeg Jets’ backup goaltender Chris Mason admitted he was nervous when he was unexpectedly thrust into action.
He didn’t show it, and his brilliant relief effort sparked the Jets to just their second win of the NHL season.
Mason stopped 18 shots, many of them with spectacular saves, as the Jets defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 in front of another sold-out crowd of 15,004 at the MTS Centre.
The Jets got off to a brutal start, giving up two goals in the first seven minutes of the game. The Hurricanes got their early goals on scrambles right in front of Winnipeg netminder Ondrej Pavelec by Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Skinner.
Jets’coach Claude Noel wasted no time, replacing his starter with the 35-year-old Mason.
“When it happens quick, you are definitely not ready for it,” he said. “I was nervous. I didn’t get a shot for about 10 minutes, and then I didn’t get another shot until about 10 minutes into the second. But I did some stretches, just trying to stay loose.
“I’ve been in this game a long time and I’ve been in situations where I’ve been pulled early and put in early. So, you expect the unexpected. It’s tough but it’s part of the job.”
The move sparked the Jets, who replied with a pair of power-play goals from Alex Burmistrov and Kyle Wellwood.
And the momentum carried into the second period as the Jets scored three straight goals to grab a 5-2 lead.
The Jets raised their record to 2-4-1, while the Hurricanes fell to 3-3-2.
Mason said he felt the goalie change was simply made to wake the club up.
“In my opinion it was nothing Pav did,” he said. “On the first one, in my opinion, it should have been whistled down, and on the second one they were just jamming it in. Sometimes, coaches do that and it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight, it did.”
Burmistrov, easily Winnipeg’s best forward so far this season, notched his second of the season when he roofed a shot behind Carolina goalie Brian Boucher midway through the first period. Wellwood then took a feed from Nik Antropov to tie the score 2-2 with just 1.4 seconds left in the first period.
“The two goals helped, and then we started to skate in the second,” said coach Noel. “We started to play with some urgency.”
The Jets scored three times in the first eight minutes of the second, and Boucher looked bad on all of them.
Jim Slater ripped a slapshot through the legs of the Hurricanes goalie at 4:29 and then Jets captain Andrew Ladd launched a knuckleball from just inside the blueline just over a minute later that actually skipped just in front of Boucher and then caromed over his shoulder.
Evander Kane then scored from close in when Boucher was caught leaning away from the post.
Tuomo Ruutu scored his second goal of the year midway through the third period for Carolina.
The Jets were two men short late in the third period, but their penalty killers did a terrific job of keeping the club ahead.
The shots were even at 24-24.
“Mason was good. It’s not easy coming into these situations,” Noel said. “He hasn’t played a lot. He’s going to get another start in the next couple of games. He’s a real battler. He did a great job for us.”
The Jets were coming off a shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday and a loss to the Ottawa Senators the next night.
Carolina entered the game 3-0-1 in their last four games.
Afterward, Hurricanes’coach Paul Maurice said his club just had nothing left in the tank after playing the last three games on the road, including an overtime loss to St. Louis on Friday.
“We’ve played six of our eight games on the road,” he said. “We’ve played some good teams lately. I don’t like this game. It taints the mood. But overall I’ve been happy with our start (to the season).”
Ladd, looking like he’d been pummeled in a street fight, was in the lineup Saturday night, despite being a question mark earlier in the day.
He took a puck in the face on Thursday in Ottawa and required three stitches inside his nose and three on the outside. His face was bruised and swollen, and he wore a visor.
The Jets host the New York Rangers on Monday night before heading out on a seven-game road trip that keep them away from the MTS Centre until Nov. 10.
The Hurricanes have the rest of the weekend off and don’t play until Tuesday when they host the Senators in Raleigh, N.C.