Ondrej Pavelec makes 30 saves in NHL return as Jets top Coyotes 6-3

Pavelec makes 30 saves for Jets in NHL return

WINNIPEG — Ondrej Pavelec was glad his long wait to get back to the NHL ended with a victory, even if it wasn’t his best game.

The veteran netminder made 30 saves as the Winnipeg Jets halted a four-game losing streak Wednesday with goals from six different players in a 6-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Pavelec, 29, was sent to the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose at the end of training camp, but recalled Tuesday.

“I think as a goalie, you get called up from the AHL, you can’t ask more from the team in front of him,” Pavelec said. “I think the guys battled so hard. I think they realized the goalie would be struggling in the first period. It’s a nice comeback and was nice to get the win in the first game, that’s for sure.”

Jets coach Paul Maurice left the door open for Pavelec to start Saturday afternoon when Winnipeg hosts St. Louis.

“Oh, it’s early, eh,” he said when asked. “This is six games in nine nights for our hockey team here tonight so we’re going to take the day off (Thursday). But he’s feeling good, we’re feeling good, I probably won’t be changing a whole lot.”

Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Copp, Joel Armia, Jacob Trouba and Nikolaj Ehlers scored for the Jets (21-23-4), who started a four-game homestand. Little also had an assist and Dustin Byfuglien added a pair of helpers.

Josh Jooris, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun had Arizona’s goals.

The Coyotes led 2-1 after the first period, but the Jets fired in three straight goals in the second to take a 4-2 lead and then added the first pair in the third.

“In the second period, they came out real strong and we couldn’t match their ability to win puck battles,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “You win puck battles, which allows you to play in the offensive zone. We lost too many battles in front of our net and they ended up in goals.”

Mike Smith stopped 29 of the 35 shots he faced for Arizona (13-25-6) before being replaced by Louis Domingue after Winnipeg’s sixth goal midway through the third period.

Domingue made four saves for the Coyotes, who have lost three straight. Their last win was 4-3 against the Jets at home last Friday.

Maurice was impressed with how Pavelec dealt with his demotion and promotion.

“Going to the minors at this point in his career is a humbling thing and he figured out how to handle it right and get himself ready and back up here,” Maurice said. “Happy for him.”

Pavelec received his familiar “Pavy, Pavy” chant from the crowd in the middle period after his quick stick deflected a shot by Radim Vrbata over the net.

Maurice praised the save.

“There would be some nerves in that first part and he built and got stronger,” Maurice said. “And then he pulls one out only a really, really talented man can do. I’m really happy for him, really happy for him.”

Jooris scored on Arizona’s first shot on goal, firing the puck low and just outside Pavelec’s outstretched left skate at 2:49.

The Jets responded 47 seconds later with a goal later credited to Little during a deflection off players in front of Smith at 3:36.

Five seconds into a two-man advantage, Arizona used its sixth shot on goal to go ahead 2-1 off Ekman-Larsson’s laser to the top corner at 8:50.

Wheeler, Copp and Armia scored in the second, while Trouba and Ehlers made it 6-2 by 8:59 of the third, sending Smith to the bench.

Chychrun’s second goal of the season was assisted by former Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov. It was his first return to Winnipeg after the team placed him on waivers earlier this month and Arizona claimed him.

“It was weird to watch the guys skating in the warmup in the jersey you’re used to wearing,” Burmistrov said. “Everybody skated by me and say hi in the warmup.

“I’m really happy about moving (to the Coyotes). I’m ready for this new chapter in my life.”

Arizona quickly travels to Minnesota for a game against the Wild Thursday. Winnipeg hosts St. Louis Saturday afternoon.

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected version of an earlier story. Shawn Matthias didn’t score for Winnipeg, Joel Armia did.