Ondrej Pavelec spent 99 days with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, and in his one day with the Winnipeg Jets this season, Pavelec already went out and made arguably the best stop any Jets goaltender has made this season.
Wednesday’s outing against the Arizona Coyotes started shaky for Pavelec, who was taking his first turn in goal since closing out the 2015-16 campaign with a victory over the Los Angeles Kings on April 9. Pavelec was beaten on the first shot he faced, a low wrister from Josh Jooris, and it seemed like it could be again one of those nights.
Pavelec corrected his play, though, and made a spectacular save in the second period. After the Coyotes flipped the puck in on goal, Tobias Rieder was able to beat Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien to the loose puck and cut towards the corner, spotting a trailing Alexander Burmistrov. The pass isolated Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey in a 2-on-1 situation, which led to Burmistrov faking a shot on goal before sliding the puck across to a wide-open Radim Vrbata.
Pavelec, who had committed to the fake shot, was down and out when Vrbata received the pass, but the Jets netminder stuck out his paddle, turning aside what should have been Vrbata’s 11th goal of the campaign.
It was the best stop Pavelec made on the night and one that came at a big moment. Had the Coyotes scored, the Jets would have entered the third period protecting a one-goal lead instead of entering the final frame with a comfortable two-goal cushion. The Jets gave Pavelec some extra room to work with in his return to the NHL, too, by netting two goals less than a minute and a half apart midway through the third for a 6-2 lead.
In a way, the first-shot-first-goal followed later by an awesome save perfectly encapsulates Pavelec’s time in Winnipeg. He has been shaky at times and had some difficult outings along the way, but his highlight reel is long, including a number of saves that, realistically, he had no business making.
Regardless of the victory, the Jets are still likely going to be looking for more from their starters down the line, be it Pavelec, Connor Hellebuyck or Michael Hutchinson. The three goals allowed by Pavelec marks the fifth-straight game and sixth in seven outings that the Jets have surrendered three or more goals against.
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