WINNIPEG – Ondrej Pavelec says the confident Winnipeg Jets can beat anyone in the NHL.
The goaltender and his teammates proved it by handing the Boston Bruins their first regulation loss in more than five weeks.
Pavelec made 39 saves and Bryan Little scored the game-winner as the Jets beat the red-hot Bruins 2-1 on Tuesday night.
“We know if we’re going to stick with the plan, if we’re going to play the way we want, that we can beat everybody,” Pavelec said.
It was the Bruins’ first regulation loss since Oct. 29, ending a 15-game stretch in which they earned 29 of a possible 30 points.
The Jets (12-11-4) moved above the .500 mark for the first time this season, and have won six of their last seven games at MTS Centre.
Pavelec said it’s no coincidence that he often plays better when he faces more rubber.
“I feel confident in the net when I get a lot of shots,” he said. “It always depends on how the shots go. You have to stop them.”
Little scored the winner 94 seconds after Shawn Thornton had tied the game for Boston (17-8-1). Little controlled the puck off a neutral-zone faceoff, went the length of the ice and beat Tuukka Rask to the glove side, sending the sell-out crowd into a frenzy.
“It was the loudest I’ve ever heard the arena,” Little said. “It was unbelievable.”
The goal came just six seconds after David Krejci flattened Jets defenceman Mark Stuart into the end boards from behind. Krejci and Zach Bogosian were in the penalty box for offsetting roughing minors after the hit, which left Stuart face down and motionless on the ice. Stuart did return to the game.
Jets coach Claude Noel chose not to comment on the hit, saying he would let the league decide whether it was dirty. The rest of his post-game comments consisted of noting but praise for his players.
“We’re getting a lot of good games from a lot of people,” Noel said. “It was goaltending, defence and forwards. Just smart, responsible play.”
Pavelec withstood a flurry of shots in the final minutes of the game to preserve the lead. Rask made 33 saves for the Bruins.
The Bruins tied the game three minutes into the third, when Jets forward Jason Jaffray turned the puck over in his own zone and Thornton tipped in a shot from a bad angle by Daniel Paille.
Earlier in that shift, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara handed the puck to Carl Klingberg in front of the Bruins net, but the Jets forward couldn’t beat Rask.
Thornton said the Bruins’ effort was just as strong as what they had shown over the previous month.
“It was one of those nights when they weren’t going in,” he said. “We generated enough chances to probably win this game. The last month or so they’ve been going in. Tonight they didn’t.”
Boston was coming off a Monday night win in Pittsburgh, but Thornton refused to use the back-to-back games as an excuse.
“That’s all mental as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I think it’s pretty easy to get through as long as you’re strong mentally.”
Jets captain Andrew Ladd opened the scoring late in the first period with a perfect snap shot to the top corner from outside the left faceoff dot past Rask’s blocker.
The Bruins had the better chances in a scoreless second period, but Pavelec made several acrobatic saves. The best of his 17 saves in the period came off Krejci as he slid across his crease to prevent the tying goal.
Each team failed on two power plays in the second period.
The Jets conclude their five-game home stand on Friday night against Carolina. The Bruins return home to face Florida on Thursday.
Notes: Pavelec’s assist on Ladd’s goal was his second in 143 career NHL games…Boston forward Tyler Seguin was scratched from the lineup after missing a team meeting Tuesday morning…Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk left the ice in pain after blocking a Bogosian shot in the second period, but returned shortly after…The Bruins beat the Jets 4-2 in Boston on Nov. 26 in the teams’only previous meeting.