Jets close out 2013 with shutout win over Sabres

- December 31st, 2013

The Winnipeg Jets have closed out 2013 with an actual winning streak.

Thanks to a relatively tidy 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at MTS Centre, the Jets have won three consecutive games as they flip the calendar to January.

The season high for consecutive wins is four, which came in November but included three consecutive shootout wins during that stretch.

Al Montoya continued to build his “cult-like following” by making 27 saves in what was his second shutout of the season and fifth of his NHL career.

Montoya made a spectacular sprawling save on Sabres forward Matt Ellis in the first period and then was steady for the remainder of the contest.

“That was huge to get me going,” said Montoya. “You don’t want it to be bang-bang like that, but I found the puck, was able to make a desperation save. Luckily he was too close to me that he couldn’t get the puck up. It allowed me to be athletic and be reactive right away.”

Outside of that mad scramble, Montoya’s steady positioning was a key in this one, as he was able to make a few saves he didn’t see because of his quiet movement in the crease.

“Definitely, it’s about staying composed,” said Montoya, who has won six consecutive starts and now has eight on the season in 13 appearances. “Sometimes when you don’t see the puck, you want to scramble but you have to trust your abilities, that you’re staying big and it’s hitting me. Whether it’s luck or positioning or whatever you want to call it, it’s going right.”

Montoya and the Jets were also the beneficiary of a disallowed goal from Marcus Foligno that was waved off because Drew Stafford knocked the net off its pegs just as the puck was going into the net.

Although the play was reviewed, replays were inconclusive, so the call on the ice stood.

The Jets were up 1-0 at the time, thanks to a seeing-eye point shot by Keaton Ellerby that beat Jhonas Enroth at 10:42 of the first period.

The goals from the back end continued in the second period as Jacob Trouba ripped a one-timer from the slot at 13:06.

By buckling down in the defensive zone in the third period, the Sabres never really mounted much of a charge and the Jets put the game on ice when Evander Kane dished off to Anthony Peluso instead of firing the puck into the empty net himself.

“Of course, I’m a goal-scorer,” said Kane, when asked if he considered keeping the puck instead of passing it off instead. “I knew he was there. He works hard and if that was me, I’d want that puck too.”

Claude Noel saluted the unselfish play by Kane afterward.

Much of the talk revolved around goaltending in Noel’s post-game presser but the Jets head coach didn’t reveal who would start against the Ottawa Senators and re-iterated that Ondrej Pavelec remains his No. 1 netminder.

“I’m not going to sit here and get into the goaltending scenario,” said Noel. “You think it over, you watch the tape, you look at it and see where we’re at. (Montoya) has played well. He’s won six straight games. I’m not oblivious to what’s going on. You’re trying to manage the situation, you’ve got to win games and you know that.

“Where it all fits in, it will all get sorted out.”

Jets right-winger Chris Thorburn chipped in an assist in his 500th NHL game and had a couple of good scoring chances, but continues to search for his first goal of the season.

“Yeah, I just can’t crack that (goose) egg,” said Thorburn. “Playing with (Jokinen) and (Setoguchi), those chances are coming regularly. It’s just frustrating I can’t put them in. They’re both positive with me, so I’m staying positive.”

I asked Thorburn about the significance of No. 500 as well.

“It’s a number, just like any other stat,” he said. “It’s great. I would have never thought. It’s something I definitely take pride in. It’s something I’m honoured with and I hope there’s 500 more. It’s a great way to make a living. I want it to last as long as possible.”

The Jets begin a three-game road trip on Thursday against the Ottawa Senators and will feature back-to-back games against the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday and Sunday.

It’s a stiff challenge for sure, but the Jets moved within two points of the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday after the Wild lost a sixth consecutive game in regulation time.

After covering 38 of the first 42 games, I’m taking a breather here, so columnist Paul Friesen will be handling the Jets for the next week or so.

 

Categories: Hockey

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