WINNIPEG – It was a shaky start to his return to the NHL, but by the end of the second period the crowd at MTS Centre was chanting “Pavy”.
Ondrej Pavelec made a successful return to the Jets lineup as he stopped 30 of 33 shots in a 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.
“As a goalie, you get called up from the AHL, you can’t ask more from the team in front of him.” Pavelec said. “The guys battled so hard. I think they realized the goalie was a little bit struggling in the first period. But nice come back and it was nice to get the win in the first game, that’s for sure.”
Pavelec allowed a goal on the very first shot he faced but settled down soon after and made a few spectacular saves in the victory.
“What was good about his game was just build through it.” said head coach Paul Maurice. “There would be some nerves in that first part and he built and got stronger. Then he pulls the one out only a really talented man can do. I’m really happy for him, really happy for him. Going to the minors at his point in his career is a humbling thing and he figured out how to handle it right, get himself ready to get back up here.”
“I’m sure there were some nerves for him.” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “It was kinda a unique situation he was in and so I think after the first he settled in there and made some big saves for us.”
The win ended a streak of four straight games without a victory.
The Jets received goals from six different players as Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Copp, Joel Armia, Jacob Trouba and Nikolaj Ehlers all found the net in the victory. 15 Jets players registered at least a point and their only minus player was Toby Enstrom who finished the game -1. Dustin Byfuglien recorded two assists.
A few fans booed former Jets forward Alex Burmistrov the first time he touched the puck early in the first period. He had one assist and was a +1 with two shots on goal and two hits.
It was a rough start for Pavelec in his return to the Jets. Less than three minutes into the first period, Pavelec allowed in the first shot he faced. Josh Jooris, from the top of the circle slid in the puck past Pavelec. It was only Jooris’ second goal of the season as Lawson Crouse drew the only assist.
The Jets evened the score only 47 seconds later. Josh Morrissey’s point blast hit Little in front of the net and deflected past Mike Smith. Morrissey was originally credited with his third career NHL goal but it was later changed to Little who garnered his eighth of the season and it was 1-1.
Midway through the period, and just five seconds into a Coyotes 5-on-3 man advantage, Oliver Ekman-Larsson beat Pavelec from almost the exact same spot on the ice. The powerplay goal was unassisted and the Coyotes had two goals on only six shots for a one goal lead. The shots were 12-8 in favour of the Coyotes in the initial 20 minutes.
The Jets once again leveled the score 3:03 into the second period. Mathieu Perreault put it in front for Wheeler who sent in the one-timer. Wheeler’s 14th goal of the season was also assisted by Little and it was a two all tie.
Less than two minutes later the Jets took their first lead. Copp was all tied up with Luke Schenn battling for the loose puck but Copp still managed to shovel it past a sprawled out Smith for his fifth goal of the campaign. Chris Thorburn and Nic Petan had the helpers as the Jets went ahead 3-2.
The Jets added to their lead with 7:11 remaining in the middle period. Shawn Matthias spotted a streaking Armia and he re-directed the puck past Smith for the Jets fourth goal. Byfuglien also had an assist on Armia’s third goal of the season.
The Jets extended their lead to three midway through the final frame. Drew Stafford threw a shot on goal and Trouba came flying in to whack in the rebound. Mark Scheifele also had an assist on Trouba’s third goal of the season.
Not even two minutes later Ehlers picked the top corner for his 15th of the season to chase Smith from the game. Paul Postma had the only assist as Louis Domingue came on in relief in goal for Arizona.
Jakob Chychrun would score for the Coyotes with five minutes to remaining to round out the scoring.
Michael Hutchinson, Julian Melchiori and Brandon Tanev were all healthy scratches for Winnipeg.
The Jets continue their four game homestand on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues with puck drop scheduled for 2:00 pm at MTS Centre.
WATCH: Winnipeg Jets Post Game Reaction