Toews Scores Winner as Hawks Come Back to Beat Jets

Jonathan Toews came home on Sunday night and scored the winning goal. Nobody loves playing in front of the home crowd more than the guy they call Capt. Serious.

“I always have plenty of friends and family here so it’s an exciting place to play for me,” said Toews after he and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3. “It’s nice to get the winner anytime. It was great tonight.”

The Hawks celebrate a winner (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

The Hawks celebrate a winner (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Toews deflected a shot from the point off the stick of Niklas Hjalmarsson at 19:29 of the third period to cap a third period Hawks comeback and hand the Jets only their second regulation loss at home since Jan. 13.

“It was big considering the difference it makes,” Toews added. “Getting two points instead of just one more than them. It was a big game for both teams, so it was nice to scrape our way back into that one and find a way to win at the end there.

“I think we did a lot of good things, and we made a few mistakes that ended up in the back of our net. But for the most part, we didn’t give up much. So I think all four lines brought a lot tonight.”

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Jets. It was especially heartbreaking because Toews’ winner came only 31 seconds from the end of regulation time – and what would have been a guaranteed point.

“I thought we played a pretty good game, an up-tempo game,” said the Jets’ Adam Lowry, who turned 22 on Sunday. “To lose in the last minute really stings, but we’d better forget it quickly because we have the New York Rangers coming in on Tuesday.”

Toews was always around the net (Photo by James Carey Lauder).

Toews was always around the net (Photo by James Carey Lauder).

The Jets took a 3-2 lead into the third period on a pair of goals by Dustin Byfuglien, his 17th and 18th of the year, and Blake Wheeler’s 25th. Byfuglien’s second goal came on the power play with just 26 seconds remaining in the second period.

However, in the third period, Patrick Sharp tied the game at 6:27 as he went in on a breakaway and beat Ondrej Pavelec with a near-perfect shot to the glove side. Sharp got the breakaway because Jets defenseman Toby Enstrom got his stick tangled up in a linesman’s skate and then fell to the ice while trying to corral the loose puck.

“It was a pretty even game throughout,” said Lowry. “We had some good chances and they had some good chances, but we got a bad break when Toby lost his stick and Patrick Sharp went in and scored to tie it and then we lost on a deflected shot from the point. Losing like that is pretty tough to take, but credit the Blackhawks. They played a pretty good road game.”

The Jets outshot Chicago 34-24 and essentially had territorial control throughout the game. In the end, however, Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford was just better than the Jets Ondrej Pavelec, who had his six-game winning streak stopped. The Jets have now won six of eight, but Sunday night’s loss really stung.

“It’s a tough loss,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice quietly. “You’re not taking away any of the pain or frustration by anything you say today, so we’ll talk in the morning. (The play with Enstrom) is like an injury. You’re mad about it when happens, but there isn’t anything you can do about it. I’m sure the linesman feels worse than anybody in the building.

“It was a tough loss for us. We’ll deal with it tomorrow and we’ll be done with it by the time we hit the ice tomorrow.”

Winnipeg's own Jonathan Toews was the Hawks hero (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Winnipeg’s own Jonathan Toews was the Hawks hero (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Andrew Ladd didn’t score a goal but he did dish out his 36th and 37th assists of the season. Ladd now has 61 points on the campaign. With an assist, Drew Stafford now has a nine-game points streak. During that streak, he has four goals and seven assists.

However, with the loss, the 39-25-12 Jets remained in seventh place in the West, one point ahead of eighth-place Calgary, 5-2 winners in Nashville (Brandon’s Michael Ferland scored the winning goal for the Flames). Both teams have six games remaining. The Los Angeles Kings are ninth with 88 points, two back of Winnipeg. The Kings have seven games left this season.

“We’d better forget that loss and be ready to play on Tuesday,” said Lowry. “That’s a good New York Rangers team coming in here, but we’ve been a pretty resilient bunch all season long. We just to come out and play our best again on Tuesday night.”

Tuesday’s game against the Rangers begins at 7 p.m. It’s on TSN3.

The Price is Right

Montreal’s Carey Price will win the 2015 Hart Trophy as the National Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player, but there are others that deserve votes.

 There is little doubt about it. Saturday night, the Montreal Canadiens clinched a playoff spot and with it, goaltender Carey Price locked up the Hart Trophy.

Carey Price is a lock for MVP

Carey Price is a lock for MVP

According to the NHL, “The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.”

Wayne Gretzky won the award a record nine times during his career, including eight in a row from 1980-87. Players from the Montreal Canadiens have won the award 16 times; players from Boston Bruins are second with 12 winners.

I’m an old school guy. I believe that goaltenders have their own trophy. The best goalie in the league gets the Vezina Trophy and that should be it. Just like baseball’s Cy Young Award. Pitchers have an award, they shouldn’t be MVP.

Then a guy has a campaign like Carey Price has had this season and the argument ends. The Smurf-like Canadiens should not have clinched a playoff spot on Saturday, should not have 102 points with six games to play and should not be first in the East.

But then Carey Price comes along, stops everything and allows the fast and talented Canadiens to do what they need to do on offense because they don’t have to worry about what’s going on behind them.

Check out these numbers: A won-lost record of 41-15-5 in 61 games. A .937 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.88. The Canadiens are in the bottom half of shots on goal and shots toward the goal, and yet they have 47 wins and 102 points. That’s all because of Carey Price.

He has been the media leader all season and he’s still the leader as we enter the final two weeks of the season. Amazingly, Price will be the first goalie to win the Hart Trophy since Jose Theodore, also a member of the Canadiens (Theodore actually tied in the voting with Jarome Iginla that year, but Theodore had more first-place votes), took home the Hart in 2002.

Devan Dubnyk. Your Runner-Up.

Devan Dubnyk. Your Runner-Up.

Listen, Price is going to be named NHL MVP. The voting won’t even be close. But five other players should be given some recognition, if not a first-place vote or two.

  1. Devan Dubnyk, G, Minnesota Wild: The Minnesota Wild acquired the journeyman goaltender on Jan. 15 from Arizona and he has completely turned around the fortunes of his team. The Wild were 12th in the Western Conference when Dubnyk was acquired. They are now fourth and pretty much have a lock on the playoffs. He has made a Wild-record 34 consecutive starts and is 26-6-1 with Minnesota. He has a .939 save percentage and a 1.70 goals against average. He has allowed 57 goals (Total) in 34 games. He has won five straight starts, allowing only eight goals. Saturday night he beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. It was his second straight win in a back-to-back situation. He is 8-1-1 in back-to-back games since joining the Wild. If you aren’t going to designate Price as your first-place vote-getter, you must designate Dubnyk. He’s the clear choice as runner-up and yes, he’s another goalie.
  2. Rick Nash, C, New York Rangers: He has 40 goals and 25 assists in 73 games and is a plus 27. The Rangers are where they are in the standings (47 wins, 101 points, second in the East), despite having All-World goalie Henrik Lundqvist for only 40 games this season, because their 6-foot-4 power forward has played the best hockey of what is a terrific career.
  3. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks: When superstar Patrick Kane (who is still the team’s leading scorer, despite going down in Game 61) was injured everyone thought the Blackhawks were toast. But the team’s captain picked the cub up on his shoulders and carried it. Toews has 24 goals and 37 assists (is second in scoring to Kane) and has six goals, six assists and is a plus seven since Kane was injured 13 games ago. He logs about 19 minutes of icetime a game and has been the team’s best player for more than a month down the stretch.
  4. Alexander Ovechkin, RW, Washington Capitals: Ovie has 48 goals and will probably get to 50. He’s also the major reason why the Washington Capitals will make the playoffs. He leads the league in goals and is fourth in points. He’s been the Ovechkin that everyone thinks he is this season. Without him, Washington wouldn’t be close to the post-season.
  5. Shea Weber, D, Nashville Predators: The Predators have 47 wins and 102 points for a lot of reasons. The biggest? They’ve allowed only 183 goals. A lot of that has to do with goaltender Pekka Rinne, but it also has to do with a solid defense. And the leader on that defense is Weber, the likely No. 1 candidate for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound 29-year-old has 15 goals and 30 assists and is plus 15. He also averages more than 24 minutes a game.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Anaheim; Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay; Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg; Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen, St. Louis; Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Vancouver; and Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh.

Rick Nash

Rick Nash

Jets Blast Habs 5-2, Playoffs in Sight

Despite some interesting statistics, the Winnipeg Jets were just too good for a team that might win the President’s Trophy.

On Thursday night at MTS Centre, another full house gave the Jets a standing ovation as the home side drilled the visiting Montreal Canadiens 5-2.

Ondrej Pavelec gets the shutout.

Ondrej Pavelec gets his sixth straight win.

The Jets were clearly the better team. Sure, the Habs put up some big shot numbers in the first period. A 20-5 difference in shots is significant. But Ondrej Pavelec was rock solid once again as he made 39 saves to record his sixth straight victory.

“I think we definitely got better as the game went on,” said Jets winger Adam Lowry who scored his 10th goal, in this his rookie season. “You don’t want to be outshot the way we were in the first period, but kudos to Pavs, he was sensational tonight. We weren’t ready to start. We were a little sluggish. But as the second period started we got more physical, forced some turnovers and gave ourselves a few more chances in the final 40 minutes.

“Every game at this time of the year is super important for every team. With where they’re (Canadiens) standing, fighting for first in the league, we knew they’d come in hard, but we got a lot better in the second and third periods. We were a lot more physical, had more jump and created a lot more opportunities for ourselves.”

It was a huge win by the Jets and sure, you might figure that because the Canadiens had the territorial advantage and outshot the Jets by a wide margin, 41-22, that they should have won the hockey game.

Not so fast.

The Jets took advantage of their best scoring chances and made a mockery of Dustin Tokarski’s return to the centre of Canada. Tokarski had plenty of family and friends in town from Saskatchewan and they did not go home happy.

Dustin Byfuglien, back from a three-week absence, put the Jets on the board first with his 16th goal of the season. Despite being outshot 20-5 in that opening period, the Jets skated out of the first 20 minutes with a 1-0 advantage.

The Jets' Mark Stuart shuts down Winnipeg's own Dale Weise (Photo by Jeff Miller)

The Jets’ Mark Stuart shuts down Winnipeg’s own Dale Weise (Photo by Jeff Miller)

At 6:05 of the second period, Mark Scheifele scored a picture goal (his 14th) to give the Jets a 2-0 lead, but the Canadiens made it 2-1 on a goal by Andrei Markov just 41 seconds later.

But the comeback was very short lived. Jim Slater scored his third of the year on a deflection off his skate at 9:13 and then Blake Wheeler, with his 24th of the year, at 19 minutes, put the game away.

The Habs Brendan Gallagher scored at 11:37 of the third period, but just 45 seconds later, at 12:22, Lowry scored to make it 5-2 and the rest was just a formality.

With the loss, the Habs fell to 46-21-8 on the season, one point behind Anaheim and the New York Rangers, both winners on Thursday night.

The victory was gigantic for the Jets. Minnesota is still fifth with 91 points (eight games remaining) and Vancouver is officially sixth with 90 points (nine games remaining), but the Jets are still seventh with 90 points (seven games remaining) and a record of 39-24-12.

Los Angeles beat the New York Islanders 3-2 on Thursday so the Kings moved into eighth with 88 points (eight games remaining) while Calgary fell to ninth with 87 points (eight games remaining). No other teams are legitimately in the race.

Dustin Byfuglien returned from injury and scored his 16th. (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Dustin Byfuglien returned from injury and scored his 16th of the season. (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Thursday night, the Jets opened a huge four-game homestand with only their second win over the Canadiens at MS Centre. The only other victory, a 4-0 shutout, occurred way back on Dec. 22, 2011.

The Jets have suffered only one regulation loss in their last 16 home games (11-2-2) dating back to Jan. 13. Overall, the Jets are 21-11-5 at MTS Centre this season. The Jets play four of their final seven regular season games at home. The Jets now have a 71.8 percent chance of making the playoffs.

“We found a way to get better over the course of the game,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice after the Jets huge win over Montreal. “Sometimes you have to accept where you’re at and find a way to get better. I think we did that tonight.”

Next up for the Jets is Game 2 of the homestand against the Chicago Blackhawks. It goes Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. at MTS Centre. The game can be seen on CITY TV.

The Never-Ending Saga of the Vikings And Their Prodigal Son

Adrian Peterson’s agent says the future Hall of Fame runningback doesn’t want to play for the Minnesota Vikings anymore.

Minnesota Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf says the team can’t wait to get AP “back out onto the field with his teammates.”

Adrian Peterson.

Adrian Peterson. Looking confused.

AP has a contract to play for the Vikings that will pay him $13 million next year. AP should probably put on his big boy pants, collect more money than people who are actually important and just play football in a purple uniform.

One senses, however, that the on-going saga of one of the great runningbacks in NFL history is not going to sort itself out anytime soon.

Ben Dogra, the agent for Peterson told USA Today at the NFL meetings at the Biltmore in Phoenix, that he and AP “want out of Minnesota.” Dogra and Peterson are likely quite sincere. They just aren’t very bright.

We are at this point because Peterson beat the living crap out of his four-year-old son. In the state of Texas, where the incident took place, Peterson was arrested and charged with assault. He eventually copped a plea deal and was sentenced to a form of probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault for using a wooden switch to discipline his boy.

From that moment forward things got complicated. He remained suspended by the NFL, the Vikings found themselves in the midst of a public relations nightmare and the team’s now CEO Kevin warren suggested publicly that Peterson’s future in Minnesota was being seriously considered.

Peterson, of course, didn’t appreciate or understand any of that, blamed the Vikings, not himself or the NFL for his problems, and has decided that he’d rather play elsewhere. It should be noted that he wasn’t charged in Minnesota nor did he have his day in court in Minnesota. It should also be noted that the league, not the Vikings, suspended him. Heck, the Vikings tried to reinstate him a week after he’d been charged with child abuse.

Still, in the minds of Dogra and Peterson, the runningback was somehow not given complete support by the football club and therefore he feels it’s time to go. One of the places he wants to go is Dallas. That’s in the state that charged him and forced him into court and ultimately a conviction in the court of public opinion, but apparently that’s OK for Dogra and Peterson. Something doesn’t add up here.

Fact is, Dogra recently told ESPN: “I don’t think it’s in Adrian’s best interest to play in Minnesota. Why would it be?”

I can think of plenty of reasons why but obviously the Peterson Camp isn’t listening to anyone.

Then again, the Peterson camp has no real control over its immediate future. AP is under contract to the Vikings until 2017. All Dogra can do is whine loudly about Adrian having no desire to play in Minnesota and hope the Vikings trade him.

Adrian Peterson is one of the game's greatest backs. Headed for the Hall. Too bad he just can't stop whining and just play.

Adrian Peterson is one of the game’s greatest backs. Headed for the Hall. Too bad he and his agent (mostly his agent) can’t stop belly-aching.

They should trade him to Oakland or Jacksonville. A couple of three-win seasons with no offensive line in front of him might let him know how great he had it in Minnesota.

Coach Mike Zimmer, general manager Rick Spielman and the Wilfs have made it very clear, at least publicly, that they want Peterson to play for the Vikings in 2015. They believe, as most fans have, that Peterson did his time and paid his debt to society and he should return to “his” team.

In fact, it has become apparent over the past few days that the Vikings brass is not going to cut Peterson and they don’t seem to be in any hurry to trade him.

“Adrian is a member of our football team. He is under contract,” Spielman told “We are focused on the 2015 season and expect Adrian to be a part of that. Our whole focus is getting ready for the season with Adrian.”

With Peterson, the Vikings should be pretty good in 2015. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater proved he could handle the daily grind and constant pressure of the NFL, the club acquired wide receiver Mike Wallace, they re-signed Matt Asiata and signed RB DuJuan Harris. Otherwise, they didn’t lose anyone deemed to be important and should be reasonably stable heading into camp.

So as the Peterson camp whines and struts around like a pair of eight-year-olds, the Vikings, who have all the leverage, will likely just sit back and see what happens. Either someone is going to make an offer that Spielman can’t refuse or Peterson is going to be a Viking. I just don’t see a 30-year-old runningback sitting out another season when he could be making $13 million while taking a few more strides toward Canton.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before when it comes to these guys. They all think their bullet proof – even at 30 – and maybe $13 million isn’t that important.

If Dogra is as smart as I suspect, then in the end, Adrian Peterson should probably just suck it up go out and have another great season in Minnesota. Of course, none of these guys is ever as smart as you’d hope.

Jets Blow 2-0 Lead in Second, Lose to Canucks

The Winnipeg Jets took a 2-0 second period lead in Vancouver on Tuesday night and it appeared as if their sixth straight win was in the bag.

But then Chris Higgins, Yannick Weber and Radim Vrbata scored three times in eight minutes and three seconds and the Jets hopes were shattered.

Chris Higgins beats Michael Hutchinson.

Chris Higgins beats Michael Hutchinson.

In the end, Winnipeg managed only six shots in the third period, couldn’t even get much pressure on Canucks goalie Eddie Lack and fell 5-2 to Vancouver in one of the biggest games of the season.

The loss certainly didn’t end the Jets playoff hopes. Quite the contrary. The Jets are still seventh in the Western Conference, two points ahead of eighth-place Calgary and ninth-place Los Angeles. However, a win last night and the hockey analysts who create these logarithms would have given Winnipeg a 91.5 per cent chance of making the playoffs. As it stands, that percentage is now 75.5. Still good, but not a lock by any stretch wit eight games remaining.

“We let the pedal off the gas,” Jets forward Jiri Tlusty told TSN 1290. “We were dominating the first period but we sat back and they (Vancouver) got some jump and it cost us the game. It can’t be a 40-minute game for us. We have to play for 60 minutes. They have a good team and they were playing at home. We knew it was going to be tight. They didn’t gave us very many chances in the third period.”

Tlusty gave the Jets a 1-0 lead at 2:17 of the first period (his first goal as a member of the Winnipeg Jets) and then Blake Wheeler made it 2-0 at 5:07 of the second. But Vancouver beat Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson at 10:57, 16:29 and 19:00 of the second period and that’s all they needed. Henrik Sedin and Vrbata, who finished with two goals and an assist, scored empty net goals in the final minute of the third period to make the score 5-2.

Jiri Tlusty scores his first goal as a Jet.

Jiri Tlusty scores his first goal as a Jet.

“Of course, it’s nice to get the first goal, but I’d rather have two points as a team,” said Tlusty. “But we have a good thing going here and we just have to move forward. It will be good to get back home to those great fans for a four-game homestand.”

Some Jets fans will want to blame Hutchinson for the loss. He gave up a couple of soft ones in that eight-minute second-period stretch, but the Jets didn’t manage much offence until late in the third period. In the end, Vancouver outshot Winnipeg 30-28 and Hutchinson made four terrific saves in the third period to keep the Jets in it.

Meanwhile, on the bight side, Wheeler now has six goals and 11 points in his last nine games while Drew Stafford pickup up an assist and now has a seven-game points streak.

With the loss, the Jets five-game winning streak was stopped. The Jets now find themselves with a record of 38-24-12 for 88 points they are now alone in seventh place in the West.

Vancouver is now alone in sixth with 90 points while the Minnesota Wild, 2-1 shootout winners on Long Island on Tuesday night, are now fifth in the West with 91 points.

Eddie Lack stops Mark Scheifele.

Eddie Lack stops Mark Scheifele.

The eighth-place Calgary Flames have 86 points, as do the ninth-place Los Angeles Kings who won 4-2 in New York on Tuesday. Winnipeg now has nine games remaining this season and is about to start a four-game homestand on Thursday night. That’s great news. The Jets have suffered only one regulation loss in its last 15 home games (11-2-2) dating back to Jan. 13. Overall, the Jets are 20-11-5 at MTS Centre this season. The Jets play five of their final eight regular season games at home.

That homestand starts on Thursday night against Montreal. Game time is 7 p.m. and it can be seen on TSN3.

Jets Keep Rolling With Fifth-Straight Win

Another win. Another two points. And for the Winnipeg Jets, the Stanley Cup playoffs just seem to get closer every night.

Monday night at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Ondrej Pavelec stopped 33 of 34 shots to lead the Jets to a 4-1 victory over the Oilers as the Jets took another giant step toward the 2015 post season. The Jets have now won five straight games and remained in sixth place in the Western Conference.

Both Toby Enstrom and Mark Scheifele logged more than 20 minutes of ice time.

Both Toby Enstrom and Mark Scheifele logged more than 20 minutes of ice time.

The Jets built a 3-0 lead after two periods. Drew Stafford opened the scoring at 7:32 of the first period then Lee Stempniak scored at 5:31 of the second and Tyler Myers tallied at 16 minutes of the second as three players the Jets acquired in February gave the Jets all they needed to improve to 38-23-12 on the season. That’s the franchise’s highest win total since the 2006-07 season.

Thanks to Monday’s quick start, the Jets are now 3-0 against Edmonton this season. Winnipeg also improved its road record to 18-12-7, just two away from the franchise record for wins on the road, a high watermark that was also set in 2006-07, the only time the Atlanta Thrashers made the playoffs.

“Quick starts have been important for us,” Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba told TSN 1290 radio. “We got that early goal and we were able to keep it going after that.”

Pavelec gave up his first goal in one hour, 38.02 seconds of icetime when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored at 1:10 of the third period, but Pavelec kept the Oilers at bay and Michael Frolik added a third-period goal as Winnipeg kept pace with Calgary, Minnesota and Los Angeles – all winners on Monday night.

The Oilers gave the Jets a game in the third period, but Pavelec was just too good. In the end, Edmonton outshot Winnipeg 34-24, but this week’s NHL First Star of the Week was too good as he won his fifth straight game (his personal high is six straight games). His save percentage during those five games is .965.

Drew Stafford opened the scoring and had another big game.

Drew Stafford opened the scoring and had another big game.

With their fifth straight victory, the Jets now find themselves with 88 points and back in a virtual tie with Vancouver for fifth in the West. However, Vancouver (42-26-4) has played one fewer game, has four more wins and seven more ROWs.

With Minnesota’s 2-1 win in Toronto on Monday, the Jets remain one point behind fifth-place Minnesota (41-25-7) while the eighth-place Calgary Flames, 3-2 winners over Colorado (With losses, both Colorado and San Jose probably spit the bit on Monday night) on Monday, trail Winnipeg by two points. Ninth-place Los Angeles, a 3-1 winner in New Jersey, is still four points behind the Jets. Winnipeg has nine games remaining this season.

“We’re definitely pleased with that victory tonight,” said Trouba who logged a team high 23 minutes and 31 seconds of icetime. “Every point is important at this time of year and we needed that win. We stayed with our game and handled them pretty well.

The Jets will complete this brief two-game road trip with another gigantic matchup on Tuesday evening (9 p.m. on Sportsnet). It’s the Jets and Canucks in Vancouver.

The next home game for Winnipeg will be this coming Thursday night against Montreal. It starts at 7 p.m. and it can be seen on TSN3. Winnipeg has suffered only one regulation loss in its last 15 home games (11-2-2) dating back to Jan. 13. Overall, the Jets are 20-11-5 at MTS Centre this season. The Jets play five of their final eight regular season games at home.

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Pavs is Back! Pavelec Named NHL’s First Star of the Week

It would appear, Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is indeed back. His resurgence resulted in three wins, a shutout and the honor of being named the NHL’s ‘First Star’ of the Week ending March 22.

Blake Wheeler and Ondrej Pavelec celebrate a huge win in Tampa.

Blake Wheeler and Ondrej Pavelec celebrate a huge win in Tampa.

Pavelec, 27, led Winnipeg to a 3-0-0 record last week as he started in wins over San Jose (5-2), St. Louis (2-1 in a shootout), and Washington (3-0). Pavelec denied 98-of-101 shots he faced over the three games – producing a .970 save percentage and an 0.97 goals against average. He also posted a 28-save shutout in his most recent start on March 21 versus Washington. He has started and won the Jets’ last four games dating back to Mar. 14, at Tampa Bay, another brilliantly executed 2-1 win.

After struggling for much of the season, Pavelec appears to be his old self again. He was 13-14-7 with a .901 save percentage, a 2.88 goals against average and one shutout heading into Tampa last week and has come out of the four-game run with a .916 save percentage, a 2.40 goals against average, and two shutouts. Pavelec now boasts the best save percentage of his career.

This marks the second time this season that a member of the Jets has been named the NHL’s First Star pf the Week. Dustin Byfuglien was recognized earlier this season (for the week ending Jan. 18). This is also the second time in Pavelec’s career that he has been recognized as the NHL’s First Star of the Week. He previously earned the honour in November of the 2010-11 season.

Pavelec Shuts Out Caps, Jets Sweep Homestand

Now that was a home stand.

Despite playing without Dustin Byfuglien, Mathieu Perreault and Bryan Little, the Winnipeg Jets wrapped up three straight games at MTS Centre with a well-earned 3-0 victory over the Washington Capitals.

Ondrej Pavelec was "fabulous." (Photo by Tara Miller)

Ondrej Pavelec was “fabulous.” (Photo by Tara Miller)

Thanks to goals by Mark Stuart, Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry (into an empty net) and a brilliant performance in goal by Ondrej Pavelec, the Jets beat the Capitals for the first time in the last eight games.

More importantly, the victory helped the Jets keep pace with the Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks and kept the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings at bay in what has become a wild and wonderful race for the final few playoff spots in the Western Conference.

“It was really good tonight,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “I thought we did a really good job in five-on-five play against Washington’s best line (the Alexander Ovechkin line). If you don’t defend against that line you aren’t going to win. And Ondrej was fabulous.”

Pavelec was definitely the story. The oft-maligned (not anymore) Jets netminder was sensational, especially late in the game when the Capitals threw caution to the wind and attacked the Jets net with gusto.

But Pavelec stopped them all – Nicklas Backstrom (two shots), Eric Fehr (four shots), Brooks Laich (three shots), Jason Chimera (two shots and Alexander Ovechkin (two shots and a handful of beautiful plays). He stopped a Joel Ward breakaway. He made point-blank saves on Mike Green, Matt Niskanen and Troy Brouwer. He nearly made Ovechkin cry.

Washington outshot Winnipeg 27-24 and the Jets also blocked 26 shots. Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba blocked five each while Toby Enstrom, Adam Pardy and Jim Slater each blocked four. The Capitals also missed the net 18 times, which means they took 71 shots toward the Jets net.

Ovie had a rough night.

Ovie had a rough night.

“We had a really tough schedule coming back off that all-star break and it took a while for us to get back to skating and playing consistently,” Maurice admitted. “But now I don’t have to wind these guys up. They ‘re ready for anything.

“And Ondrej was just fantastic.”

It was a tremendous way to complete a three-game homestand. The Jets beat San Jose 5-2, then St. Louis 2-1 in a shootout and the Capitals 3-0 on Saturday. The Jets have now won four-straight games and find themselves with a record of 37-23-12. With 86 points, they are in a virtual tie for sixth with Vancouver. The Canucks and Jets have the same number of points, but Vancouver has a game in hand, four more wins and eight more ROWs.

Still, the Jets remain one point out of fifth despite Minnesota’s 6-3 shellacking of St. Louis on Saturday afternoon. Calgary, meanwhile, lost 3-2 in overtime to Columbus earlier in the day, so the eighth-pace Flames trail Winnipeg by two points. Los Angeles lost 4-1 at home to Vancouver in the afternoon so the Kings are now four points behind the Jets. Winnipeg has 10 games remaining this season.

Winnipeg has suffered only one regulation loss in its last 15 home games (11-2-2) dating back to Jan. 13. Overall, the Jets are 20-11-5 at MTS Centre this season. The Jets play five of their final 10 regular season games at home.

“This Jets team is playing great hockey,” said former Jet Randy Gilhen in the press box on Saturday night. “They go North and South and they go hard: All the time. They finish. They just play so hard. They’re really playing great hockey. And they are very well coached.”

Mark Scheifele scored his 13th of the year. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Mark Scheifele scored his 13th of the year. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

The Jets will head back out onto the road for two games. They’ll face the Oilers in Edmonton on Monday night (8:30 p.m. on TSN3) and then meet the Canucks in Vancouver in a gigantic matchup on Tuesday evening (9 p.m. on Sportsnet).

The next home game for Winnipeg will be this coming Thursday night against Montreal. It starts at 7 p.m. and it can be seen on TSN3.

Jets Beat Blues in Shootout, Playoff Hopes Grow

Drew Stafford scored the game-tying goal in regulation and then he and Andrew Ladd scored in the shootout as the Winnipeg Jets took a huge step toward reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Stafford beat St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott on an old-fashioned backhander at 13:16 of the third period to tie the game and then was part of a thrilling shootout as the Jets beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1.

Ondrej Pavelec: First star. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Ondrej Pavelec: First star. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

With the win, the Jets improved to 36-23-12 and with 84 points moved into, at least, a temporary tie for sixth place with the Vancouver Canucks. And on an even brighter note, the Washington Capitals – Winnipeg’s opposition on Saturday night — went into Minnesota and beat the Wild 3-2, so the Jets were only a point out of fifth in the West, although Vancouver was still playing – and winning — out on the coast.

Not only was Thursday night’s win important, it was how the Jets won the game that said so much about the team’s character. The Jets fell behind 1-0 in the second period on David Backes’ 25th of the year and even though Winnipeg was generating plenty of chances – the Jets hit three posts – they just couldn’t solve Elliott in the Blues’ net.

But then, in the third, Stafford snuck a short-side shot past the Blues netminder and with Ondrej Pavelec playing as well as he has in a number of years for the Jets, it was apparent at that point that Winnipeg had a chance to win this one.

“It was a huge win for us,” said Jets forward Adam Lowry who had five hits and a handful of scoring chances. “It was a highly-contested game.

“We just needed to come back and win one for a change. We had lots of jump and lots of chances. Any time you can get two points at this time of the year against a team like that it gives you a lot of belief in your room. We knew that being down by one goal, we weren’t out of it by any means. If you keep creating chances one of them is finally going to go in.”

Captain Andrew Ladd: The winner in the shootout (Photo by jeff Miller).

Captain Andrew Ladd: The winner in the shootout (Photo by jeff Miller).

The Jets outshot the Blues 34-33 in a game that was a tribute to goal posts and great goaltending. Both Pavelec and Elliott were outstanding.

However, it was the Jets third-period perseverance that made the difference in a game that was played at a high tempo from start to finish.

“After the second period, we were focused on how well we’d been playing,” said Lowry. “We had a lot of good chances in the second period and we definitely believed we could come back. It’s fun to play in important games and its fun to play in heavy-hitting games. It’s great to be in a playoff race.”

The Jets have 11 games remaining in the 2014-15 schedule, six of them at home. Jets head coach Paul Maurice praised the sold out, loud and proud MTS Centre crowd for giving the Jets a little extra jump late in the game.

“We played as hard as we could and it didn’t change when we got down,” said Maurice. “We played better at that point. We got more pucks to the net and created a lot of good chances.

“It’s not easy for those guys to play that hard and the crowd was an important part of us having success tonight. We needed the fans to be as great as they were in that building tonight. They gave us a lot of energy.”

The Jets will need more energy on Saturday night when Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals come to town. Game time is 6 p.m. and it’s on CITY TV.