“Hockey Fights Cancer”
NASHVILLE — Coming off the 2014 Sochi Olympics, it might have been hard to know what to expect from Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec when the NHL season resumed.
Playing for the Czech Republic, he allowed four goals and was pulled in a quarterfinal loss to the United States. Pavelec did not dress for the Czechs’ first game against Sweden.
If those events bothered him, it’s not apparent. Despite his team being significantly outshot, Pavelec stopped 39 shots Saturday in a 3-1 win against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville outshot Winnipeg 40-20, giving Pavelec his second strong win against the Central Division foe this season. He made 41 saves on Nov. 8 in a 5-0 win against the Predators.
Since returning from Sochi, Pavelec is 2-0-0. He defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout in his first game back Thursday, when he made 34 saves.
The surging Jets (29-26-6) are 11-3-1 since Maurice replaced Claude Noel as coach on Jan. 12. The Jets, who began the day two points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, pushed their lead over the Predators to four points in the Central Division.
Predators coach Barry Trotz said a bad read by the right-side defenseman — he didn’t name him, but it was rookie Seth Jones — cost Nashville the first goal. Jets center Olli Jokinen broke in alone and his wrist shot beat goalie Carter Hutton high to the glove side at 5:02 of the second period. The goal was Jokinen’s 14th of the season.
Nashville (26-25-10) is 1-2-2 in its past five games. The Predators had won three of four against the Jets in the season series entering Saturday.
Trotz said he liked his team’s effort. The Predators play the third game of their five-game homestand on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
One game after going 3-for-4 on the power play in a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, the Predators failed to score on all six power-play chances. Nashville entered the game with the NHL’s fifth-ranked power play, but Winnipeg owns the League’s top-ranked penalty-killing unit on the road. The Jets entered killing 87.5 percent of opponent’s chances away from home.
Pavelec was Winnipeg’s best penalty-killer Saturday. In the first period, he came across the crease to rob David Legwand’s try on a rebound when the game was still scoreless. Legwand fell to the ice, clutching his helmet in disbelief. Trotz cited that as an important save early.
Pavelec stopped Viktor Stalberg on a breakaway with 5:08 left in the second period, flashing his left pad to turn aside a wrist shot along the ice.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd deflected Zach Bogosian’s slap shot from the right side past Hutton to give the Jets a 2-0 lead with 1:41 left in the second.
Predators forward Simon Moser scored his first NHL goal in his fifth career game with 10:49 left in regulation to pull Nashville within 2-1. Moser deflected a shot by defenseman Michael Del Zotto past Pavelec.
But Pavelec preserved the lead with about five minutes left in regulation, stopping Mike Fisher on a 2-on-1. Jets forward Devin Setoguchi then pushed the margin to 3-1 with 3:52 left in regulation. Blake Wheeler used his speed to outflank Predators defenseman Shea Weber and put a shot on goal that Hutton stopped, but Setoguchi converted the rebound from close range.
The Jets, Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks each have 66 points, though the Stars own the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference because they have two games in hand on the other two.
Ladd said the Jets won’t begin scoreboard-watching so early and he wants his team to find ways to continue to improve.
Team Photographer Photos