NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After consecutive strong games, Ondrej Pavelec has the Winnipeg Jets in the chase for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Pavalec made 39 saves in a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday, and coach Paul Maurice knows his goalie has been on a hot streak.
“He’s played the same way, believe it or not, prior to. He’s had a big stretch of really good games, and every once in a while, he’ll play a game like he did (Saturday),” Maurice said. “Clearly he made some great saves, but I also thought we were pretty good clearing it out.”
Pavalec had 34 saves in the Jets previous game, a 3-2 victory over Phoenix on Thursday.
The Jets, ranked sixth in the NHL in penalty kills coming into the game, didn’t allow a goal on six Nashville power plays.
One of the Predators’ strengths has been converting man-advantage chances. Entering the game, they were fifth in the league, but Pavelec stopped Nashville on each power play.
“Yeah, we didn’t have any interest in playing with that fire,” Maurice said. “We’ll take a look at the ones we did give, and we have penalties that we have to avoid taking. Then we also have to recognize our penalty kills are pretty darn good.”
Simon Moser scored his first NHL goal for Nashville. He also scored in the Sochi Olympics playing for Switzerland.
“That was then, at the Olympics, and now is now,” Moser said. “I just try to do my best and keep going that way.”
The Jets improved 11-3-1 since hiring Maurice as coach.
Olli Jokinen put the Jets on the board at 5:02 of the second period when he beat Nashville goalie Carter Hutton with a wrist shot for his 14th of the season.
Jacob Trouba and Evander Kane assisted on the play when Winnipeg took advantage of a bad Nashville line change.
Trouba collected the puck in his own end and fired a long pass to Jokinen on the left side.
Andrew Ladd put the Jets up 2-0 at 18:18 of the second period when he tipped in a Zach Bogosian slap shot for his 15th of the season.
“We are picking our spots and have some great goaltending,” Ladd said.
Moser brought the Predators within one, but Devin Setoguchi put the game away when he tapped in a rebound off a Blake Wheeler miss with his 11th of the season at 16:08.
With the loss, the Predators missed a chance to tie the Jets in the standings. Winnipeg has 66 points, while Nashville remains in 12th place with 62 points.
“I thought we had a lot going on, created a lot of opportunities, and drew penalties because we were on the puck and creating chances,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I have to give Winnipeg credit, they had full commitment from everybody and they got a couple huge saves.”
This was the final matchup of the season for the two teams. Nashville won the series 3-2.
With the Jets up 2-1 and the Predators with momentum, Pavelec came up with a huge save with about five minutes left when he stopped Mike Fisher’s shot on a 2-on-1 charge to the net.
Scoring chances haven’t been hard to come by for Nashville. The Predators outshot Tampa Bay 21-7 in the final two periods of their game on Thursday, a 3-2 win.
On Saturday, the Predators took the first 10 shots of the game before the Jets could muster a chance at the net.
“There’s going to be games where you feel like you get your heart ripped out of your chest and you just have to forget about what happened,” Trotz said. “We played a really good hockey game, but we didn’t win it.”
Notes: This was the 100th game of Nashville’s Rich Clune’s NHL career. … In 10 matchups against the team formerly known as the Thrashers, Nashville is 7-3-0 on home ice since the 1999-2000 season. … The win ended a four-game road losing streak in Nashville for Winnipeg.