Ondrej Pavelec knew he could play better early in the Winnipeg Jets’ season. He took a big step against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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Pavelec stopped 28 shots, and the reborn Jets beat the Penguins 2-1 on Monday night for their first regular-season victory since relocating to Winnipeg from Atlanta.
”I know, and everybody knows, I didn’t play well our first games so I was trying to help the team to get the win and keep them in the game,” Pavelec said.
Pavelec took two of Winnipeg’s three losses this season but he looked sharper against the Penguins, who were missing top forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
”It was a big game for us against a great team,” Pavelec said. ”They missed two of their best guys, but they still were a danger and they have a lot of guys who can score the goals. I’m happy we showed we can beat those teams. That’s very important, but now we go on the road. It’s only one game so don’t be too excited.”
Heading into the game, the Jets (1-3) were one of three winless NHL teams. The other two, the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets, were idle Monday.
Pavelec was given a quick lead when Kyle Wellwood scored 8 seconds into the game.
After the opening faceoff at raucous MTS Centre, passes between Nik Antropov and Alex Burmistrov ended with Wellwood beating goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Wellwood tied former Thrashers player Ron Petrovicky for the franchise’s fastest goal.
It was also the quickest one Wellwood ever scored.
”That was exciting,” he said. ”To get a break like that early in the game and being able to capitalize is one that you’re really going to enjoy.”
Tanner Glass netted Winnipeg’s other goal, and Burmistrov had two assists for the former Atlanta Thrashers.
Zbynek Michalek had the only goal for Pittsburgh (3-2-2), which got 33 saves from Fleury. The Penguins have lost two in a row.
”It was about being ready to start this game,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. ”(The Jets) brought exactly what we thought they would bring. It was an emotional building and they had a fast quick start for them.
”We knew they wanted to come out and play that way, and they certainly did and got the better of us.”
Winnipeg went up 2-0 with just over a minute left in the first period when Burmistrov stole the puck from defenseman Kris Letang along the boards. Burmistrov sent the puck over to Glass in the high slot and he fired a shot through the legs of a screened Fleury.
Pittsburgh got within 2-1 with 1:38 left in the second period when Michalek scored from just inside the blue line.
Letang assisted on the goal, giving him seven points this season, including one goal. Letang had been tied with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for most points by a defenseman.
Pittsburgh, which is playing 13 games in the first 24 days this season, was without Malkin (knee) and Tyler Kennedy (concussion-like symptoms). Crosby (concussion) stayed home as he continues his recovery from his injury sustained in January.
NOTES: Winnipeg was missing forward Evander Kane, who sat out because of an undisclosed lower body injury. Defenseman Ron Hainsey left the game in the second period with an upper body injury and didn’t return. … The Jets outshot the Penguins 35-29.